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.

free marketing tools

12 Free Online Tools That Will Make You a Better Marketer

If you’re in marketing you know one thing to be true: the internet is your friend. I would even go as far as to say the internet is your BEST friend. Sorry, Gretchen Wieners. Online tools can help you work smarter and faster, giving you more time to focus on analyzing and optimizing versus creating and implementing. Check out my favorite free marketing tools below.

1. Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule

If you haven’t heard of CoSchedule yet, allow me to introduce you to your new favorite all-in-one marketing calendar, project management, social campaign scheduling platform. Yeah, that’s a mouthful, and they do much more than that. On top of delivering a great product, they also have a bunch of free resources for busy marketers like you and me.

Let’s start with their Headline Analyzer. Using this tool is simple, paste your headline, click “Analyze Now” and receive a score of 1-100. The closer to 100 the better (obvi). The Analyzer looks at your headline and gives you suggestions based on your score, allowing you to optimize your headline for higher open rates and engagement.

Here are a few things the Headline Analyzer looks at:

  • Word balance
  • Length
  • First and last words
  • Keywords
  • Sentiment

2. Email Subject Line Tester by CoSchedule

If email marketing is apart of your marketing mix (which it absolutely should be) then you know the power of a well-written subject line. We want high open rates people! The Email Subject Line Tester is similar to the Headline Analyzer where you paste your subject line into the tool and are given a score from 1-100.

Here are a few things the Email Subject Line Tester looks at:

  • Words that increase opens
  • Words that decrease opens
  • Letter case
  • Whether you include numbers or not
  • Character count
  • Word count
  • Emoji count

3. Social Message Optimizer by CoSchedule

You guys, I swear I’m not being paid by CoSchedule to name drop these tools. I just love them! The Social Message Optimizer helps you write posts that boost engagement, build trust and drive traffic. Once you enter your post content, they’ll give you a score (you guessed it, 1-100) for each social platform.

Here are a few things the Social Message Optimizer looks at:

  • Message type
  • Characters
  • Hashtags
  • Sentiment
  • Emojis

Plus, at the end, they’ll tell you the best day and time to post your content. 👍

4. Blog Ideas Generator by HubSpot

HubSpot is another incredible marketing tool that manages just about everything from email marketing to lead gen and closing sales. I live for it, it’s amazing. Their Blog Ideas Generator is great for content writers who feel a little burnt out and find themselves asking the forever looming question: what will I write about next? The way it works is stupid simple: enter three nouns, get five new content ideas.

5. Keyword Explorer by Moz

Moz is your all-in-one SEO tool. If you’re not ready to allocate some of your budget for Moz Pro, check out the Keyword Explorer. This tool allows you to enter your URL (or a competitor’s URL) and see what keywords are trending for that specific page. This is an easy way to grow your keyword list, and see what other people are using/writing about to gain web traffic.

6. Keyword Planner by Google

You guys have heard of Google, right? Just kidding, I know you have. Frankly, I’d be worried if you hadn’t. Aside from being the Beyonce of the internet (amazing, revolutionary, etc, etc, etc.), they also offer a bunch of online tools. Including Google AdWords. AdWords has become the number one tool when it comes to digital advertising. Within that tool is the Keyword Planner. Use it to search for keywords related to your business and help budget your PPC ads.

7. Google Analytics

I’m not ashamed to say that I am a Google Analytics addict. If you’re big on ROI (which you should be) then you’re probably an addict too. Google Analytics analyzes your website, giving you insights on how many people visit your site, how they got there, what pages they’re viewing, whether they’re staying around or bouncing, and so much more. Really, a lot more. I use Google Analytics for a lot of things, but it’s a big help when it comes to figuring out what to write. What pages are your visitors going to the most? Do you see a trend in the article topics they’re looking at? What can you learn from their behavior?

8. Grammarly

Grammarly is probably the tool that I use the most, seeing as I have it installed on every device I own. One part of being a good content marketer is making sure that your writing is well written technically. That means grammar, spelling, and all of the other important stuff. Grammarly scans your writing and offers suggestions to make it more readable, and notifies you of any technical errors that might exist. It’s a great tool that will make a lasting impact your day-to-day productivity.

9. Hemingway

If you want to strive for ultimate readability, use Hemingway to perfect your content. It’s really easy to use. Just paste your text, they’ll score your readability and tell you how to make it better. They even highlight the passages that they recommend fixing and tell you how to fix it. It can’t get much easier than that.

10. Canva

Most small businesses rely heavily on “wearer of many hats,” especially when it comes to the marketing department (or lack thereof). I’ve worked at businesses where I make up the entire marketing department, and that’s where tools like Canva become an important resource. If you’re not a graphic designer but don’t want your social media, print media and digital media assets to suck, allow me to introduce you to Canva. Canva is an easy to use tool that uses drag and drop features to create eye-catching assets. They even provide free (and paid) templates, icons, images, and more.

11. Yoast

If you’re using WordPress and you’re NOT using Yoast, you cray. Or you just haven’t heard of it yet. Yoast is a free plugin that helps you optimize your content. SEO is really important when it comes to gaining organic traffic for your website, and it impacts your overall rank. Yoast makes it easy to modify and optimize your content and enhance your on-site SEO.

Here are some of the best features included in the free version:

  • Keyword optimization
  • Google preview
  • Readability check
  • Heading and meta description modification
  • Set cornerstone content

12. Evernote

Okay so Evernote might not have much to do with the nitty-gritty of marketing, but it is a great tool for any type of professional. Evernote is a project manager and electronic notebook that helps keep you and your team organized. I used to be big on writing all of my notes by hand, but after using Evernote I am now a firm believer in electronic note-taking. Evernote lets you create notebooks, web snippets, to do lists, reminders, and more. It’s good for the environment, great for your workflow and very user-friendly.

What’s the Point?

There are a ton of free tools out there. The internet is a vast and wonderful (sometimes scary) place. I hope you try some of these tools out, and let me know what you think. If I missed a tool you really love, mention it in the comments below!