​​​Arthur  Plotnik, Author

Better Than Great: A Plenitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives. Viva Editions, 2011. UK edition: Souvenir Press, 2012.

Be scintillant! Mind-mutilating! Put some muscle and lyricism in your praise with more than 5,000 alternatives to the worn-out "awesome," "amazing," and "incredible." Organized by such useful categories as Great, Beautiful, Joy-Giving, Delicious, Cool, and Forceful.

"...what gonzo joy awaits language lovers as Plotnik serves up high-fiveable hot sauce for the brain. --Donna Seaman--Booklist

"...perfection printed and bound." — Bryan A. Garner, author, Garner's Modern American Usage



The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts Into Words. Revised and Expanded Edition. Viva Editions, 2012.

A complete update of the Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection, this spirited advisory takes word-users from the dull and generic to the "fissionable"--fresh language that blasts thoughts and feelings into expression of the first intensity.  Includes advice on speaking and a bounty of exciting examples from all types of writing. 

". . . solid sense, and his writing is so engaging that this guidebook is more like a fluid, enjoyable monologue --Philadelphia Inquirer  

"Invites readers to make language that actually inhales and exhales, language with its shirtsleeves rolled up and its eyes ablaze."--Richard Lederer 

"Funny and fundamentally helpful." --Constance Hale, author, Sin & Syntax


Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style. Random House (paper 2007; Kindle edition, 2009; hard-cover 2005).


Going well beyond the sometimes-restrictive "rules" of Strunk & White," this bestselling guide charts the way to writing that stands out in in today's brash, competitive writing environment.  Hailed as a model of its own advice, the book also uses hundreds of examples from modern authors to demonstrate freshness, surprise, texture, force, contemporaneity, and edge. Includes exercises for practice and study.  

"A must for every writer's desk"--Billy Collins

"Leaves Strunk & White choking on cyber-dust"--Chip Scanlon 

"Addictive reading." --Booklist

"Entertaining and engaging." --Library Journal

"A buy-a-copy-and-stay-up-all-night-reading-it-kind-of-book." --The Writer magazine


The Urban Tree Book: An Uncommon Guide for City and Town. Illustrated by Mary H. Phelan. Crown/Three Rivers, 2000. 

A unique, lyrical guide for discovering the trees of your own neighborhod and parks--their botanical features, history, lore, anecdotes, and curiosities, with full identification data and more than 175 graceful drawings of the trees' typical urban settings and details of parts. Written in cooperation with the famed Morton Arboretum. Appendices include a glossary of tree terms and a guide to tree selection, planting, and wellness.

"Indispensible." ---The New York Times  

"Plotnik writes with botanical precision and an engaging and lively style." ---American Forests

 "A must read for any student or admirer of trees." ---forestry.about.


The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors & Journalists. Macmillan, others, from 1982.

Packaged with Strunk & White's Elements of Style by the Book-of-the-Month Club and in the same friendly style, this concise guide was written to bring new editors (especially of magazines) up to speed on such matters as working with authors, hiring staff, editing manuscripts, dealing with copyright and other legal issues, and basic book editing. Though outdated in certain technical areas, its useful general advice accounted for more than 20 printings and is still valued in the office and classrooms. 

"Succinct, realistic, intensely practical, lively in style and fun to read."

--Publishers Weekly

"Is to editors what The Elements of Style is to writers."--Columbia Magazine


The Man Behind the Quill: Jacob Shallus, Calligrapher of the United States  Constitution. National Archives and Records Administration, 1987.

This pioneering, award-winning biography traces the life of the young   revolutionary soldier, land speculator, clerk, and one-time inmate of a debtor's prison, who, as fate would have it, did the pen work (calligraphy) of the original U.S. Constitution, the iconic parchment copy preserved by the National Archives.  A little-known Philadelphia citizen, he touched a great moment of history in his brief (died at 46) life.   

 "An original work of scholarship that anyone interested in Constitutional history should find useful." ---Leonard R. Levy, Pulitzer-Prize historian

 "[Plotnik] has performed small miracles of research." ---James Hutson, former Chief, Library of Congress Manuscript Division


All rights now available from author or agent.

The Elements of Authorship: Unabashed Advice, Undiluted Experience, Unadulterated Inspiration for Writers and Writers-To-Be. Simon & Schuster, 1992, toExcel 2000. 

The author's most autobiographical work and a forthright, practical guide to the journey, rewards, and perils of the writing life. Covers such topics as writers workshops, newspaper writing, full-time writing, special-interest publications, crashing the editorial gates, style, writer's block, and book contracts, as well as such offbeat subjects as writers in a love relationship and the fear of obsolescence. Features one of the earliest interviews with Poet-Laureate -to-be Billy Collins on success as a poet. 

". . .a book for aspiring writers that has few equals." -- Chicago Tribune

"wise, entertaining, useful, funny, insightful, and all-around worthy . . ." --Donald Westlake

"A uniquely personal, funny, candid, and wise treatise on the writing life . . . that teaches by example." --​Booklist


All rights now available from author or agent.

For more works, including stories, essays, and poems, please see Other Literary Output page.  

Books (selected)