Everybody Writes

Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

by Ann Handley

Number of pages: 320

Publisher: Wiley

BBB Library: Creativity and Innovation

ISBN: 978-1118905555

About the Author

Ann Handley speaks and writes about how you can rethink the way your business markets. She is a pioneer in digital marketing and the co-founder of ClickZ.com, which was one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary. She started her career as a business journalist and editor.


Editorial Review

Everybody Writes Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content Author: Ann Handley Content is everywhere, from TV, the internet, and billboards. However, writing high-quality content is a whole different story. This book summary of Everybody Writes will teach you how to craft content and integrate writing as a daily habit. Why can everybody write? The author states that writing good content isn't really a natural talent. Rather, it is a habit that forms with practice. The author also believes that there're two types of people: The not-haves and the helpless. The first type believes that they can't actually write; in contrast, the other type thinks that they can't. Nonetheless, they’re both wrong. This is because most of us fall in the middle. This means that we're, in fact, capable of writing content that will get better with practice. But why does writing matter so much? Writing is valuable. It has the power to change how you feel, what you think, and what you do. It tells a story and communicates with a lot of people all at once. Thus, the need of content marketing becomes a necessity and not an option. Writing Can Be Learned The author states that good writing can be learned, just like making a balance sheet or learning algebra. The author also provides some wisdom that both beginners and experts can use to hone their writing skills. The first tip is to write every day. Write emails, social media posts, or even a blog. Make it a habit that you practice every day and integrate it into your daily routine. Also, reading a lot is a nice addition to writing. The second tip is to shed the strict and boring rules of academic writing. To illustrate, academic writing has a specific structure that you can’t get creative around. It starts with an introduction, 2 or 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. While this structure can help classroom students, it's not as effective outside of academic boundaries. The author points out that there're grammatical rules that you can break as a writer. The most prominent of which are the following: 1.   The prominent rule of never starting your sentence with “and,” “but,” and “because” isn't really that effective because they add energy and momentum to a piece. 2.   Avoiding sentence fragments is another grammatical rule that is worth breaking, especially if you want to add an aspect of emphasis to your words. An example of sentence fragments is: And that too, or And this.. 3.   Never split infinitives is a rule that many English teachers emphasize. This grammatical specifies that you can't let anything come between to and its verb. You can break this grammatical rule as long as you keep the original meaning of the sentence intact. 4.   Ending a sentence with a proposition is also one of the grammatical faults you can make. However, unless ending the sentence with a proposition totally destroys what you originally meant, feel free to end the sentence with a proposition. 5.   The final grammatical rule that you can break without feeling guilty is writing a paragraph that’s just one sentence long. The author discusses that the idea of white space in your written piece can sometimes do more good than harm. Moreover, the author suggests letting go of what you've learned at school. Instead, develop your own writing style. However, when you write, you can use the aid of flow charts, sticky notes, or lists to map out your main ideas.  The third tip is to respect the time and mind of your reader. Stat emphatic of your reader. This means not making your reader work hard to understand you. Keep it simple and easily understood. Also, use a customer-centric point of view in your writing that will relate back to your customer and their pain points. The fourth tip is to place the important words and ideas at the beginning of each sentence. This means focusing on the main idea rather than little details that won't spark your reader's curiosity. This can be done by highlighting the 'primary idea' and the 'secondary idea.' The author provides some phrases to avoid at the start of a sentence: ·        According to ·        In my opinion ·        In 2014, [or any other year] The fifth and final tip is to think before you write. To some writers, this might seems counterproductive; however, not thinking thoroughly before you write can make it even harder for you to reach a clear point you want to express and how to make it relatable to your audience. How to make your reader relate Being relatable is one of the most important aspects of writing. This is because your reader has to feel like you understand them in order for them to trust you. The author offers some tips that will help your writing become more relatable than it is. First, you have to make your story engaging. Put your reader into the heart of the story. This is because people relate more when they feel engaged with the written content. For example, you can use set up a scenario in which your piece solves the reader's problem. Second, you have to describe the problem so that the reader can relate to it. Your clear understanding of the reader’s problem will put readers in a place they can identify with. Then, your piece will come with the solution. Third, you have to ask questions or quote a crazy or controversial bit of data to get your reader’s attention. It will also set up the atmosphere for whatever comes next. You can use other tools, like analogies, making a bold statement, or a quote. It really depends on what piece you're writing. You can also add a tonal surprise to maintain the reader’s attention. Fourth, you have to restate the main idea as a kind of short summary to remind your reader of the important topics you discussed in your piece. Writing rules you’d want to follow Most people think that writing is solely about grammar; however, writing is more about rewriting. The author provides a set of tools that will make your writing crystal clear. First, the author suggests steering clear of jargon and buzzwords. You can use one or two for the sake of using business words. However, if you use them in a non-sparing manner, they will make your piece toxic and non-comprehensive. Instead, try to use real words that everyone can understand. Second, you should also avoid frankenwords and obese words. Frankenwords are words that are awkwardly together to create a mess. An example is words like ginormous or solopreneur. Moreover, you have to avoid words that are additives, which can make words tiresome to read and understand. An example of an additive is “workshopping” or “bucketize.” Third, you have to ditch the passive voice in favour of an active voice. Active voice makes you sound more human and conversational. In contrast, passive tends to be more awkward.   The fourth and final tip is to avoid fuzzy words that just take up much space without really doing the hard work of proving your point. Marketers are guilty of writing fuzzy words too much in their writing. For example, using way by which contains a lot of fuzziness. Instead, you can use Ways as a simpler alternative. Know your story and tone   Knowing what you do is easy, but knowing why you do it is a little more tricky. This ‘why’ is the reason people hire your service or buy your product. Your brand story is one of the most important aspects of your brand. If you get your customers and prospects along on your brand story, they'll be more invested in your company. But how can you produce a good brand story? First, you have to tell your story like nobody hasn't before. Tell people why they should care rather than a robotic speech about what you do. Second, when writing your brand story, you are better off avoiding buzzwords that are really useless and sound complicated.   Third, don’t use a template that a hundred other companies can use. Aim to be unique rather than blending in with the crowd of all the other companies. Thus, you have to tell your brand story in a story only your brand can tell. Moreover, brand voice is also an important aspect of your brand identity. Brand voice can be defined as the expression of your company’s personality and point of view. This personality is expressed in how words sound when they’re read. Also, it's a long-term process that not all companies develop, so you still have a chance there! So, how can you develop a unique brand voice? Your unique voice comes from knowing who you are and how you set yourself apart from the rest. It also navigates the experience you deliver for your readers. This is why you should use your voice as a differentiator in all your customer-focused communications. Also, it’s important to note that you can change your tone in various situations. Voice; however, doesn’t change, but your tone should, depending on the situation and the feelings you’re trying to convey. 

Book Reviews

“Throw the others away because this is the only guide you need to elevate your content to the level of awesomeness! With wisdom and an infective wittiness, Ann shows you how to take your writing from awkward or awful to electric or elegant. She’s your favorite teacher, cracking you up while her tough love gets you to do the work to improve. Even though I’ve written 10 books, I still learned a great deal in these pages and now I’m eager to flex my newfound content creation muscles.”

“All your shiny new channels, properties, and platforms are a waste of space without smart, useful content. Ann Handley’s new book helps make every bit of content count—for your customers and your bottom line.”

“I just glanced at the table of contents and I’m already a better writer. Ann Handley might just single-handedly save the world from content mediocrity. Really, really ridiculously good-looking content just got an owner’s manual.”

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Wisdom to Share

As content strategist Jonathon Colman, who works for Facebook, told me: “Start with empathy. Continue with utility. Improve with analysis. Optimize with love.

In an online world, our online words are our emissaries; they tell the world who we are.

The truth is this: writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.

Assume the reader knows nothing. But don't assume the reader is stupid.

Your customers don't buy your product to do your company a favor,” Eghbal said. “They're doing it because your product makes their lives better. So if you want to sell something, you need to explain how you're helping them.

So, before you begin the writing, be sure you know the purpose or mission or objective of every piece of content that you write. What are you trying to achieve? What information, exactly, are you trying to communicate? And why should your audience care?

Good writing serves the reader, not the writer. It isn't self-indulgent. Good writing anticipates the questions that readers might have as they're reading a piece, and it answers them.

At some point, you do have to rush your own art. Otherwise, your art sits on its butt on the couch eating chips and salsa.

Empathy—like writing—isn't a gift. It's a discipline. It takes some intentional effort and diligence to develop enormous empathy so that you can apply it to your writing.

Quality content means content that is packed with clear utility and is brimming with inspiration and has relentless empathy for the audience.