People ask me all the time about books I would recommend to help them with marketing, writing, self-publishing, entrepreneurship—you name it. So, I thought it might be helpful to post some reviews from time to time focusing on books that have made a real difference in my business. And Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley is definitely one of them.
Handley, who’s the chief content officer over at MarketingProfs, has found a way to make effective content marketing not only seem completely doable—but also FUN! The basic premise of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is just that—we all write. As she says in the introduction, “If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means we are all writers.” Exactly. And, if we’re all writers, then why not get good at it? Or at least as good as we can be?
“The truth is this: writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” Speak it, Ann.
One of the many things I really love about Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is that it’s made up of really short, snappy chapters (most 2 or 3 pages) that cover pretty much every content creation topic you can imagine. (Seriously. ALL of them.) The chapters are divided into the following sections:
Part I: Writing Rules: How to Write Better (and How to Hate Writing Less) Let’s face it—writing is hard. And writing well is even HARDER. In this section, Handley provides practical, easy-to-follow guidance regarding simple ways we can make our writing both better AND relatively pain-free. From nuggets like “Start with Dear Mom…” to “Editing by Chainsaw” to “Swap Places with Your Reader”—you’ll find that she puts into words what we know instinctively, but often fail to do when we write. I found myself shaking my head (rather vigorously) in agreement throughout the entire section.
Part II: Writing Rules: Grammar and Usage Okay. This section might seem like a yawner from the title. But, trust me, it’s not. The last time I had so much fun reading about grammar was—ummm—never? Handley covers a whole HOST of issues that many (if not most) of us have been guilty of at some point. For example, have you ever misused a word or confused it with another? Like “uninterested” (don’t care) vs. “disinterested” (impartial or unbiased)? And—THANK YOU—she tells us about rules that are okay to break. Things like “avoid sentence fragments” and “never split infinitives.” Turns out–the world won’t come to a screeching halt if we do those things from time to time.
Part III: Story Rules In this section, Handley moves away from the mechanics of writing and delves into the art of storytelling. Now, the information she includes isn’t meant to be a complete primer to telling great stories. But, the guidance she provides—like “Tell How You’ll Change the World” and “Tell the Only Story You Can Tell”—can really help put you on the right track to powerful storytelling. She also talks about voice and tone—two things writers often confuse. It’s important to know the difference—and it’s doubly important to use them consistently in any piece of content you create.
“Storytelling as it applies to business isn’t about spinning a yarn or a fairy tale. Rather, it’s about how your business (or its products or services) exist in the real world: who you are and what you do for the benefit of others, and how you add value to people’s lives, ease their troubles, help shoulder their burdens, and meet their needs.” Ann Handley
Part IV: Publishing Rules Publishing is a privilege. And as writers, we need to treat it as one. In this section, Handley discusses the concept of “brand journalism” and the role a brand journalist plays in telling the story of the company, brand, organization, etc. she or he is working with. Topics include fact checking, interviewing tips, copyright laws, the necessity of truth and how to “see content moments everywhere.” For those of us who are sticklers about integrity and about providing value to our audiences, this section makes all kind of sense.
“Thinking like a publisher is simply not enough; you also need to act like one.” Ann Handley
Part V: 13 Things Marketers Write I really love this section! Handley provides essential tips for writing across a variety of platforms—including Facebook, Twitter, landing pages, websites, infographics, blogs, podcasts, etc. She talks about how to “unite an audience with rallying cries” on Facebook, how to use hashtags on Twitter to “tap into what people care about”, the importance of using the world you “promiscuously” on a site’s home page, and “writing infographics that won’t make people mock infographics.” Great info that leads to awesome writing if you implement it.
There’s also a sixth section, called Content Tools, that contains a treasure trove of—well—tools that will help you be a better writer in every way. From productivity to editing to style to blog idea generators—Handley basically gives the reader the keys to the content creation kingdom with this section. The info in this section alone is worth far more than you’ll pay for the book.
I like Ann Handley and follow her regularly through MarketingProfs. But, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content. It takes a lot for a nonfiction book to keep my interest—even when it’s about a topic I love. I have to say, though—Handley did it from beginning to end with this book. I recommend it to my students. And I certainly recommend it to you. Even for experienced writers, it’ll give you some gems of info that will make your writing even better. And that means your audience will be even happier.
I’m all about transparency. So, I want you to know that some of this links in this post are affiliate links and, if you use them, I’ll get a small bit of compensation for the referral. But, you can be sure I would NEVER recommend a product I don’t completely believe in. And, if you’d rather, you can always go directly to a store (online or offline) to purchase a copy of the recommended product.