Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is the word that comes to mind upon finishing ‘Everybody Writes’. This book – written by Ann Handley – is based on the belief that everyone can be a good writer and that even the best can and should still learn. Talent isn’t involved as much as you’d think. It seems like a bold statement, but the way to ridiculously good content is all about grit and commitment. Handley honours her title of one of the most influential woman in her business by writing this masterpiece. Here’s why!
Everybody know this by now: when you practice at something for 10 000 hours, you’re good at it. Maths, playing the piano, playing football, you name it! The same goes for writing. In ‘Everybody Writes’, Ann Handley convinces you it’s bullshit that you can’t write. The difference between a well and badly written text is not the writer. It’s the techniques and commitment shown by that writer. I asked Ms. Handley whether or not she though talent wasn’t involved even a tiny bit. This was her answer:
You heard the lady! Hard work combined with the right knowhow equals a well-written text. You have to provide the hard work. Luckily, Ann Handley provides the knowhow in 6 chapters!
How to write better (and how to hate writing less)
As the book’s title might reveal: everybody writes. Whether it’s a business-like e-mail to your boss, a Facebook post or a perfumed love letter to your crush. Everybody writes. The way you turn your thoughts into words – certainly when you write that love letter – define your success. Your crush will be impressed more when she receives a homage capable of making Shakespeare jealous than when she receives well… something resembling an obituary…
This chapter explains to you how not to write an obituary, but a Shakespearean homage. In short: writing is all about turning it into a habit and finding ways to connect to your audience. One key characteristic in this: empathy!
But you don’t have to learn all that on your own. In 28 writing rules, Handley teaches you to write better (or to hate writing less!).
Grammar and usage
A book on writing wouldn’t be a book on writing without the big bad wolf we call ‘grammar’. Lots of people claim to write flawlessly. Little do they know that they still make mistakes. I don’t know every grammar rule. There are probably a few grammatical errors in this article! You’d expect Ann Handley to overwhelm you with boring grammar rules. But that’s not the case. She even contradicts the rules! This chapter deals with those things people hate when reading a text.
Storytelling is sort of a hot potato and a very simple concept: telling a unique story in which your audience recognizes you! Some companies tell us wonderful stories. Others on the other hand fail miserably at it. The issue with the latter is the lack of knowhow. Ann Handley to the rescue! Not only does she tell you how your company can tell a fascinating story. She even shows a few examples of people doing it right.
Chapter 4 doesn’t tell you more on writing techniques. It informs you on how to treat your sources. Is this a credible source? Which images can/can’t you use? How do you take an interview? …
A very important lesson taught in this chapter: credit your sources. There’s nothing so frustrating as someone stealing your work. Whether it’s a quote, a study or an image: the original authors want to be credited. It’s very easy to ask them.
To give an example: I asked Ann Handley herself if I could use the images on her website for this article. She was quick to smile and say yes.
13 things marketers write
This chapter is worth so much for every marketer. Handley discusses the most important things marketers write. Social media posts, blog posts and annual reports are but a few. And yes! Even the #hashtags get a rule of their own!
Just like a skilled workman uses the best tools, a good writer possesses a toolbox of his own. This chapter is Walhalla when it comes to that toolbox. Image databases, infographic creators, time management tools,… You’ll undoubtedly find something which could satisfy your needs in the future!
After reading this book, you can’t do anything but agree with Ms. Handley. Writing is not really about talent. It’s about you! Writing can be easy, as long as you put both effort & time into it. After finishing this book, you’re all set to write some kickass content yourself!
About Ann Handley
As Chief Content Officer at Marketingprofs, author of bestsellers & keynote speaker, Ann Handley is a busy woman. Forbes crowned her the most influential woman in social media and one of the best female bloggers around. She is, without a doubt, a great influencer when it comes to her business.
In short: if you’d erase her name on the cover of the book, lots of people would think she wrote it after reading it. And that’s what storytelling is about!
My advice? Follow her on LinkedIn, read her book(s) and discover how you can also become a skilled writer!