Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Hooked on a Book: Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley of MarketingProfs is a staple for anybody who has to write a lick of copy. Yes, I’m talking to you CEO, Sales Manager, Marketing Strategist, Social Media Manager and everything in between. Everybody Writes teaches you how to fall in love with writing, find your voice, and become a more confident and effective writer.

In true Ann Handley fashion, the book is exceptionally well written and makes you feel as though you’re chatting over a cup of coffee. Let’s dissect the six parts of the book, shall we?

Part I: Writing Rules: How to Write Better (And How to Hate Writing Less)

Part I delivers on its promises (an Ann Handley rule). By the end of this part, you’ll walk away having learned three lessons: how to organize your writing, how to find your voice, and how to craft content that doesn’t suck. It’s that simple.

Key takeaways:

  • Ditch (some of) the rules you learned in high school
  • Embrace writing as a part of your daily life; it’ll pay off in the end
  • Learn to love The Ugly First Draft (TUFD)
  • Write with simplicity and empathy for a more personal touch
  • Make content readability a high priority

“Empathy for the customer experience should be at the root of all of your content, because having a sense of the people you are writing for and a deep understanding of their problems is key to honing your skill.” — Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

Part II: Writing Rules: Grammar and Usage

I wouldn’t say this was the most exciting part of the book, but it’s certainly important and written in a way that doesn’t bore you to death (I promise). As noted in the title, Part II covers the technical stuff. Grammar, vocabulary, etc. There’s an entire section in this part that includes a long list of mistakes Handley’s seen marketers make over her 20+ years of content writing. It was really valuable and one of my favorite parts of the book.

Key takeaways:

  • Keep your vocabulary simple and easy to understand
  • Avoid moralizing (see what I did there?)
  • Focus on using an active voice versus a passive voice

“Lose the excessively prescriptive and the moralizing, because it can come off as condescending.”  — Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

Part III: Story Rules

Knowing how to write about your company’s story that doesn’t become a total snoozefest is hard. But believe it or not, people want to hear it! Part III teaches you how to use storytelling in your marketing in a way that engages your audience and keeps them interested. Handley explains how to take your story and make it about your customer, instead of you.

Key takeaways:

  • Use your brand’s story to emotionally connect with your audience
  • Lead with truth and relevance
  • Emphasize the human side of your brand
  • Find your voice and tone, then carry it into all of your content

“Make sure your customer is the hero of your story.” — Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

Part IV: Publishing Rules

This part of the book offers quick publishing guidelines and journalism best practices. Most of us open up our laptops and hit publish when we finish a piece of content, without taking a moment to hold our writing to a set of standards. Handley gives you a quick dip into the world of publishing with do’s an don’ts to carry into your writing process.

Key takeaways:

  • Cite as you write
  • Always fact check your work (no alternative facts please)
  • Read up on the basics of copyrighting

Part V: 13 Things Marketers Write

Part V of this book is AMAZING. This stuff is solid gold. Handley takes us through thirteen types of content and how to optimize that content for ROI and engagement. Sections include email, social media, blog posts, landing pages, headlines, and website pages.

Key takeaways:

  • For email: keep subject lines short, use personalization, use a human voice, specify your call-to-action
  • For landing pages: deliver what you promise, keep your headlines benefit driven, avoid TMI
  • For headlines: avoid clickbait, place your reader in the headline, create a curiosity gap
  • For social media: connect with existing communities, keep it brief, use visual assets

“Remember: your value is not what you do or what you sell, it’s what you do for your customers. That shift may seem subtle, but it’s everything.”  — Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

Part VI: Content Tools

Part VI seals the deal on making this book a must-read for anybody in marketing. Handley hand delivers a long list of free and paid content marketing tools that include writing, research, productivity, stock images, and blog idea generators.