John Clayton:

Improving Your Writing

On this site:


Montana's Enduring Frontier

Cowboy Girl






Red Lodge

Small Town Bound

Other Books

About John

John's unique focus on audience and structure brings a new dimension to writing workshops. John helps nonfiction writers think about their goals and the techniques that can accomplish those goals. With an emphasis on practicality, John can round out a workshop's writing faculty in intriguing ways.

Topics John can cover include:

  • How to structure a narrative

  • Identifying your audience and its needs

  • The anecdotal essay: a dozen stories in 700 words

  • Why your rough draft should be rougher -- and how to make it so

  • The hidden cost of your computer's spellchecker

  • How to actually make money by writing

The rest of this page discusses some of John's more significant experiences in helping people take full advantage of their writing skills. For examples of John's writing workshops, see Appearances.


As an adjunct professor at Rocky Mountain College from 1995-2003, John taught a senior-level writing class that became one of the English department's most popular courses. Based on a syllabus he developed, the course combines technologically sophisticated lectures, exercises, and personal feedback to strengthen on-the-job writing skills for students in a variety of disciplines, including business, computers, engineering, and the sciences. 

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Reprints of John's articles on effective business communication from the Harvard Management Communication Letter are available from the Harvard Business School Press. They include: 

* The Ten Most Common Mistakes of Non-Professional Communicators

* Eight Differences between Writing for School and Work

* The Most Common Mistakes of First-time Presenters (as featured in the Houston Chronicle)

* When Can I Use Clip Art?

* Writing in Scenarios

* The Overrated Topic Sentence

* First, Kill the Editor

* Verbify Your Writing

* When to Ignore your Audience

* Genres: Not Just for Supermarket Fiction Shelves

* How to Lie with Formatting

* When Jargon Is Your Friend

* First, DON'T Write an Outline

* How to Write Correctly Without Knowing the Rules

* How to Make a Picture Worth a Thousand Words

* Five Quick Ways to Trim Your Writing

* How to Write an Executive Summary. This one was reprinted -- with free access -- here.

* Teach an Engineer to Write

Some of the books John recommends for improving your writing: 

* Techniques for Technical Communicators, edited by Barnum and Carliner, is the old but comprehensive textbook John used in his college classes.

* Visual Language, by Robert Horn, looked at combining text and graphics, and was a source for "When Can I Use Clip Art?"

* Writing for Story, by Jon Franklin, and Follow the Story, by James B. Stewart, help journalists and essayists apply narrative structure to works of nonfiction.


--- Revised: 11/21/2011


Copyright 2000-2015 John Clayton info [at]