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Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing MasterClass Review

Take a look at our honest review of Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass and decide whether this writing course is something you’d benefit from.

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Macolm Gladwell Teaches Writing: Our Verdict (2023)


4.5 / 5

Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass is dedicated to the art of non-fiction writing. In this comprehensive course, the acclaimed journalist and author shares his insights into writing. He talks about his rich career, where he gets ideas, and the tools he uses to create compelling stories. He is very passionate about what he teaches, which, along with his unconventional approach to journalism and writing, makes this class feel shorter than it actually is.


  • Well-rounded course
  • Engaging instructor
  • Unconventional approach


  • The main points aren’t always clear

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Malcolm Gladwell is one of the world’s most acclaimed journalists and non-fiction authors. Although I’m currently more into fiction writing, getting a glimpse of Gladwell’s thought process seemed appealing to me.

And this MasterClass was definitely not just a glimpse. It’s a detailed course that offers an in-depth look at Gladwell’s approach, methods, and inspiration.

It’s also a course that portrays writing as a calling, an activity with a higher purpose, as Gladwell puts it.

Either way, I was intrigued both as a content writer and as a fiction writer. It’s a rather lengthy course – almost 5 hours in duration – but if the topic and the instructor are good, that’s not that long, right?

So, did the course manage to keep my attention, and how much did I actually learn?

I’ll tell you all about it in the next paragraphs.

Table of Contents

What is the Malcolm Gladwell MasterClass?

Malcolm Gladwell teaches Writing” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a subscription-based platform known for offering video-based classes taught by renowned experts.

Malcolm Gladwell is a renowned journalist and author who has been writing for The New Yorker since 1996. He is also known for his bestselling books The Tipping Point and Outliers.

In his writing MasterClass, Gladwell teaches the basics of non-fiction and journalistic writing. He also delves deeper into his methods and writing tools, all while sharing stories from his rich career. He talks about ideas, structuring narrative, interviewing, language, and much more.

There are 24 lessons with a duration of 3 hours and 6 minutes in total. The course covers a lot of ground, and it’s one of the most comprehensive writing MasterClasses out there.

Who is Malcolm Gladwell?

Malcolm Gladwell is an English-born Canadian journalist, author, and public speaker. He has been included in the TIME 100 Most Influential People list and touted as one of Foreign Policy’s Top Global Thinkers.

Gladwell is best known for his work in The New Yorker magazine, where he has been a staff writer since 1996. He gained popularity with “The Tipping Point” and “The Coolhunt,” two articles that would become the basis for his first book, The Tipping Point.

Besides The Tipping Point, he published six other books, including the bestsellers Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. In his work, he is interested in collecting stories, often dealing with research in the social sciences, such as sociology and psychology.

Additionally, he is the host of the podcast Revisionist History and co-founder of the podcast company Pushkin Industries.

What is the target audience for Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass?

Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass covers a range of topics.

First of all, it includes basic writing elements and techniques such as structuring narrative, developing a tone and voice, using humor, and so on. This is great for beginners interested in pursuing a career in writing or journalism.

However, Malcolm has a rather unique approach to writing. He doesn’t talk about standard writing rules or tips, and many of his tips are based on his own experience. This doesn’t have to be a disadvantage – it only means his lessons are suitable for seasoned writers as well.

Plus, any admirer of Malcolm Gladwell’s work would enjoy it a lot.

Offering fresh perspectives on writing, Malcolm’s course is both educational and inspiring, and it’s suitable for newcomers and experienced writers alike.

To sum things up, here are some of the people who would benefit the most from this course:

  • Beginners writers
  • Aspiring non-fiction writers, journalists, and storytellers
  • Admirers of Malcolm Gladwell’s work

What does Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass cover?

In his MasterClass, Malcolm Gladwell teaches non-fiction writing.

At the beginning of the class, Malcolm compares writing to jigsaw puzzles. It’s the same level of enthusiasm, he explains. His passion for what he teaches is visible from the very beginning, and that sort of sets the tone for the whole course.

Malcolm’s lessons are engaging and full of information, and although he does meander a bit to get to his point, they cover a lot of groundwork, from finding ideas to allowing your story to enter the world.

It’s a detailed course, at least compared to some other MasterClasses, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed or bored at any point. Lessons are well-balanced, and they are easy to follow.

There are not that many assignments and exercises, though, but Malcolm compensates that by sharing great examples and clear guidelines. He addresses his learners a lot, so I felt focused and included the whole time.

If you want to know more about the content and things you’ll learn, here is an overview of all the lessons:

  • Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Malcolm briefly introduces himself and the course.
  • Lesson 2 is about structuring narrative. Malcolm emphasizes his idea of creating imperfect puzzles in writing, something that satisfies the reader.
  • Lessons 3-4 are dedicated to tools and techniques for capturing and holding readers’ attention.
  • Lessons 5-9 teach how to craft a story. The lessons cover research, extending the story, interviewing, and several case studies.
  • Lessons 10-12 are focused on characters – their crafting, description, and development. Malcolm also talks about one of his favorite characters, late-night television pitchman Ron Popeil.
  • Lessons 13-17 cover the use of language in non-fiction writing. Malcolm teaches how to structure language, use jargon, and approach emotions like melancholy and humor.
  • Lesson 18 is about finding appropriate titles that grab the reader’s attention.
  • Lesson 19 is dedicated to revisions and drafts.
  • Lessons 20-21 tackle the next phase – when your story enters the world. Malcolm also shares his advice for young writers, including how to launch and maintain your career as a professional writer.
  • Lessons 22-23 are dedicated to reading. According to Malcolm, you can’t become a great writer without being a great reader.
  • Lesson 23 is the final lesson, where Malcolm gives his final advice to aspiring writers and talks about the significance of empathy in writing.

My favorite lessons from Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass

Even though I’m more interested in fiction writing, I found Malcolm’s class very beneficial. He talks about some universal writing concepts such as language structure, character descriptions, worldbuilding, and so on.

There are also some parts that explore the role of writing in our world. Malcolm tends to describe writing as a calling – an activity with a higher purpose.

All things considered, taking his insightful, encouraging class was a great experience.

Therefore, it’s hard to pick the best lesson, but here are some of my personal favorites:

Structuring narrative

Malcolm Gladwell discussing the value of being interesting rather than predictable
Malcolm Gladwell explaining how it’s better to be interesting than predictable

This is the first lesson in the course – and it’s the one that grabs your attention right away.

Malcolm reveals his passion for writing at the very beginning by comparing the writing process to solving jigsaw puzzles.

He continues the lesson by emphasizing the importance of creating imperfect puzzles in writing – that’s a great way to grab your reader’s attention and allow your writing to leave an authentic and memorable aftertaste.

Tone and voice

Emphasizing the visibility of personality in writing, while highlighting the need to shape one's voice
Your personality is visible in your writing, but you also need to shape your voice

As Malcolm puts it, a writing style is an instrument that needs to be honed and trained. In this insightful lesson, he explains how to calibrate your tone and shape your voice based on audience and subject.

Humor and melancholy

Humor should be a side effect of your writing

Malcolm claims that we are surrounded by laughter on a daily basis. Therefore, it’s more important to write about the emotions we don’t experience so often, such as true melancholy.

Although I don’t agree that humor in writing comes easily, I also think that it should be a side effect rather than intent. Both humor and sadness are often hard to write – or to write well – and according to Malcolm, restraint in the expression of real emotion is crucial.

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass

Malcolm Gladwell grabbed my attention from the very beginning of the course. He obviously did what he does in his writing: he engages the readers by helping them connect with the data he is about to present.

Malcolm is a great teacher, for sure, lively, friendly, and spontaneous. The latter can also make him hard to follow at times.

Nevertheless, the whole course is well-structured and fluid, and I personally think Malcolm’s unconventional approach to writing and teaching is a plus.

Here are the main reasons why I would recommend this course to fellow writers and aspiring journalists:

Well-rounded course

Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned writer, there’s something for you in this MasterClass. Malcolm talks about fundamental writing tools and concepts, but he also tackles some more complex ideas.

Engaging instructor

Apart from versatile, informative lessons, Malcolm’s MasterClass also offers an enjoyable learning environment.

The reason why I felt engaged as well as comfortable is Malcolm’s attitude. He is enthusiastic, passionate, and somewhat unpredictable, so his lessons are fun to watch. He said it himself – the imperfection and unpredictability of incomplete puzzles draw people’s attention.

On the other hand, to explain his ideas and writing tools, Malcolm provides great examples and analogies, so even if you’re not well familiar with what he’s talking about, you’re about to get it very quickly.

Unconventional approach

In the very first lesson, it became clear to me that I wasn’t about to take a traditional writing class. Some people may describe his style as unconventional or quirky. To me, it was refreshing.

Thanks to his spontaneity, authenticity, and tendency to engage with thought-provoking ideas, Malcolm delivers immersive writing lessons that cover things that not that many instructors talk about.

For instance, he says that as a writer, you should irritate your readers’ minds a bit – your ‘puzzle’ needs to be a bit odd. Although I’ve never heard someone talk about narrative that way, I knew precisely what he wanted to say.

Drawbacks of Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass

It’s clear to me that Malcolm’s approach may not be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s one of the potential drawbacks of this course…

The main points aren’t always clear

As I mentioned before, Malcolm is a great teacher, but he is also very spontaneous. He stumbles and struggles to get to his point from time to time, and sometimes, his points aren’t crystal clear.

This didn’t bother me very much, but I also think it makes the whole course less fluid and comprehensible. And, of course, longer.

I guess it all comes down to personal preferences and expectations. If you want to learn from Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll have to accept his occasional ramble.

Review conclusion: Is Malcolm Gladwell’s MasterClass worth it?

In conclusion, I would say that Malcolm Gladwell’s course is worth taking.

Although it’s relatively long, the course managed to keep me interested and engaged. I do recommend taking it in chunks, though.

Malcolm is a great teacher, passionate and enthusiastic, and he keeps addressing his learners throughout the course so they can feel involved and seen. I felt that way too.

I also felt rather challenged as a writer. Some of Malcolm’s methods are uncommon, but he explains them in a very understandable. He gives a lot of examples from his own work, which is a plus for his admirers.

However, it’s not crucial to be familiar with Gladwell’s work. I haven’t read any of his books (yet), and I took a lot from the course nevertheless.

All in all, it’s a course worth taking, especially if you’re an aspiring writer or journalist.