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Ben Yagoda papers

Identifier: MSS 0672

Scope and Contents

The Ben Yagoda papers comprises 17.2 linear feet of materials documenting the publishing, editorial, and teaching career of University of Delaware professor Ben Yagoda (born 1954). The collection includes research material, drafts and notes, and interviews toward various articles and book-length projects.

The collection reflects Yagoda's research and writing processes and his particular interest in grammar and teaching students to write. The collection is arranged in six series: I. Subject files; II. Works; III. Teaching and career; IV. Notes and notebooks; V. Publications and clippings; and VI. Media.

Series I. Subject files, consists of research files Yagoda compiled and maintained on a variety of topics for potential writing projects. Some files include drafts of his later articles and correspondences with editors. The folders retain Yagoda’s original labels.

Series II. Works, contains publication materials, research, notes, drafts, proofs, and manuscripts toward Yagoda’s book-length writing projects. This series is organized by title of work: II.A. About Town: The New Yorker and the World it Made ; II.B. The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism (co-edited with Kevin Karrane) ; II.C. The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song ; II.D. How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them ; II.E. Memoir: A History ; II.F. The Sound on the Pages ; II.G. When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse ; II.H. What in the Word compilation ; and II.I. Will Rogers: A Biography. Many folders retain Yagoda's original labels.

Subseries II.A. About Town , is the largest body of work represented in the collection. This subseries consists mostly of photocopies of primary documents that Yagoda used to write his history of The New Yorker magazine, primarily letters, proofs, notes, and memos. Some of these copies have original marginal notes and some have notes by Yagoda. Included is a full manuscript of the Selected Letters of Harold Ross , edited by Thomas Kunkel. Organized alphabetically by subject heading, research is grouped by subject and often around significant New Yorker contributors.

Subseries II.B. comprises Yagoda’s notes, articles, research materials related to The Art of Fact.

Subseries II.C. comprises publication materials, research, and drafts related to The B Side. Publication materials include Yagoda’s requests to various musicians and composers for interviews. Research materials in this series include notes, articles, clippings, and photocopied materials related to mid-century American popular song. Draft materials include various proofs and notes.

Subseries II.D. consists of the book proposal and manuscript drafts of How to Not Write Bad . Yagoda’s handwritten and typed comments are found thoughout drafts in the series. Not all of the manuscripts are complete. A proof of the publication and a letter from Yagoda's editor are also included.

Subseries II.E. consists of research materials, notes, articles, and clippings related to Yagoda's project Memoir: A History , a study of the genre.

Subseries II.F. comprises research materials, and drafts related to The Sound on the Page . The series includes excerpts of different types of writing, interview transcripts, and notes about specific writing styles. Correspondences and interviews with well-known writers about their style and writing processes are also included. Drafts include chapter excerpts and a full pre-publication typescript of the work. The series also includes reviews of the work

Subseries II.G. comprises research materials and drafts related to When You Catch an Adjective. Research materials are arranged by alphabetically by part of speech. Materials in each folder relate to their history and current usage of each select part of speech. The series also contains drafts, bound galley proofs, and excerpts from the work.

Subseries II.H., comprises drafts and essays related to Yagoda’s unpublished project, What in the Word?, a compilation of the author’s career-long writings. The two folders of drafts are divided into three categories: I. The States of the Language, II. Journalism Observed, and III. Literary Lives.

Subseries II.I. consists primarily of reviews of Yagoda’s book Will Rogers after publication as well as promotional materials for the work. Research for the work consists of a photocopied chapter of Frank Hawk's book Speed , an itinerary of Rogers' drought relief tour and chronology of 1931, a copy of a photograph of Rogers and his son, and Yagoda's notes.

Series III. Teaching and career, comprises materials related to Yagoda's teaching and journalism careers. Teaching materials, CVs, and correspondences to and from agents and job applications are represented in this series. Also included is some of his work from his graduate degree in American Civilization from University of Pennsylvania (1985-1990), as well as collections of work and research from his time writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Series IV. Notes and notebooks, consists of Yagoda’s correspondences, calendars, notes, and interviews represented in notebook transcriptions. The "notebooks" section of this series encompasses a wide range of notes, including classes Yagoda taught, lists of professional contacts, research for articles and works, letter drafts, school notes, schedules, drafts of articles, and interview transcriptions.

Series V. Publications and clippings, consists of published work of Ben Yagoda from 1976-2012, including letters to the editor, cover stories, and magazines he edited. Also in this series are books Yagoda wrote, including All in a Lifetime: An Autobiography of Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer and Dr. Ruth Talks to Kids, which Yagoda co-wrote with Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, and The Art of Fact, which he edited with Kevin Kerrane. This series also includes issues of the Philadelphia Magazine between 1982-1994, when Yagoda was editing and writing consistently for the magazine.

Series VI., Media, consists of recorded audiocassette interviews Yagoda conducted for The Sound on the Page, Will Rogers, and various other subjects. Also included is a VHS recording of Yagoda’s appearance on the “Book Notes,” program.


  • Creation: 1975-2015


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

Author and journalist Ben Yagoda (born 1954) is a retired professor of English and journalism at the University of Delaware. Before joining the University of Delaware faculty, Yagoda was a freelance writer and editor for several major magazines, including Philadelphia and New Jersey Monthly.

Yagoda graduated from Yale University in 1976 and worked as an editor at The New Leader until 1978, when he left to work as a freelance writer full time. Yagoda wrote for many different publications and edited for New Jersey Monthly and Philadelphia Magazine, while also working as a movie critic for the Philadelphia Daily News. He joined the University of Delaware faculty in 1992.

Yagoda has authored several books on writing and genre, including How to Not Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them (2013); Memoir: A History (2009), a study of the memoir genre; When You Catch an Adjective, Kill it: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse (2007); and About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made (2000).Yagoda retired from University of Delaware in 2018.

Yagoda, Ben. "Bio." Ben Yagoda. (accessed October 14, 2013).Yagoda, Ben. "Books." Ben Yagoda. (accessed October 14, 2013).


17.2 linear foot (21 boxes)

1 oversize box

38 audio cassette


American author, editor, critic and blogger Ben Yagoda (born 1954) retired from teaching journalism and writing at the University of Delaware in 2016. The collection includes research material, drafts and notes, and interviews toward Yagoda's various articles and book-length projects.


Gifts of Ben Yagoda, 2012-2018

Related Materials in This Repository

MSS 0799, University of Delaware Library collection of websites relating to the Library’s literary collections. This web archive collection contains one or more websites relating to Yagoda's life and work.

Shelving Summary

  1. Boxes 1-9, 15-16: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  2. Box 10: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (3 inches)
  3. Boxes 11-13: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (upright manuscript boxes)
  4. Box 14: Shelved in SPEC manuscript boxes (1 inch)
  5. Box 17: Shelved in SPEC Media audio cassettes
  6. Box 18: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (17 inches)
  7. Box 19: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  8. Box 20: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  9. Box 21: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  10. Box 22: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons
  11. Box 23: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons (6 inches)
  12. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize mapcases

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Rachael Green, October-November 2013. Additions by Frank Desiderio, May 2018, and Dustin Frohlich in January 2019.


Finding aid for Ben Yagoda papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2013 November 19
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA