Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.
If you have a web site, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.
Yeah, but who cares about writing anymore? In a time-challenged world dominated by short and snappy, by click-bait headlines and Twitter streams and Instagram feeds and gifs and video and Snapchat and YOLO and LOL and #tbt. . . does the idea of focusing on writing seem pedantic and ordinary?
Actually, writing matters more now, not less. Our online words are our currency; they tell our customers who we are.
Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.
That means you've got to choose words well, and write with economy and the style and honest empathy for your customers. And it means you put a new value on an often-overlooked skill in content marketing: How to write, and how to tell a true story really, really well. That's true whether you're writing a listicle or the words on a Slideshare deck or the words you're reading right here, right now...
And so being able to communicate well in writing isn't just nice; it's necessity. And it's also the oft-overlooked cornerstone of nearly all our content marketing.
In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results.
These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets — like web pages, home page, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Ann deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content. It's designed to be the go-to guide for anyone creating or publishing any kind of online content — whether you're a big brand or you're small and solo.
- How to write better. (Or, for "adult-onset writers": How to hate writing less.)
- Easy grammar and usage rules tailored for business in a fun, memorable way. (Enough to keep you looking sharp, but not too much to overwhelm you.)
- Giving your audience the gift of your true story, told well. Empathy and humanity and inspiration are key here, so the book covers that, too.
- Best practices for creating credible, trustworthy content steeped in some time-honored rules of solid journalism. Because publishing content and talking directly to your customers is, at its heart, a privilege.
- "Things Marketers Write": The fundamentals of 17 specific kinds of content that marketers are often tasked with crafting.
- Content Tools: The sharpest tools you need to get the job done.
Traditional marketing techniques are no longer enough. Everybody Writes is a field guide for the smartest businesses who know that great content is the key to thriving in this digital world.
Foreword Nancy Duarte xvii
PART I WRITING RULES: HOW TO WRITE BETTER (AND HOW TO HATE WRITING LESS) 11
1 Everybody Writes 15
2 Writing Is a Habit, Not an Art 17
3 Shed High School Rules 20
4 Regard Publishing as a Privilege 23
5 Place the Most Important Words (and Ideas) at the Beginning of Each Sentence 25
6 Follow a Writing GPS 27
7 The More the Think, the Easier the Ink 33
8 Organize. Relax, You’ve Got This 36
9 Embrace The Ugly First Draft 41
10 Swap Places with Your Reader 44
11 Humor Comes on the Rewrite 46
12 Develop Pathological Empathy 47
13 ‘Cross Out the Wrong Words’ 51
14 Start with Dear Mom . . . 54
15 If You Take a Running Start, Cover Your Tracks 56
16 Notice Where Words Appear in Relation to Others around Them 59
17 ‘A Good Lede Invites You to the Party and a Good Kicker Makes You Wish You Could Stay Longer’ 61
18 Show, Don’t Tell 65
19 Use Familiar Yet Surprising Analogies 69
20 Approach Writing Like Teaching 71
21 Keep It Simple—but Not Simplistic 72
22 Find a Writing Buddy 74
23 Avoid Writing by Committee 76
24 Hire a Great Editor 77
25 Be Rabid about Readability 79
26 End on an I-Can’t-Wait-to-Get-Back-to-It Note 84
27 Set a Goal Based on Word Count (Not Time) 85
28 Deadlines Are the WD-40 of Writing 87
PART II WRITING RULES: GRAMMAR AND USAGE 89
29 Use Real Words 91
30 Avoid Frankenwords, Obese Words, and Words Pretending to Be Something They’re Not 93
31 Don’t Use Weblish (Words You Wouldn’t Whisper to Your Sweetheart in the Dark) 95
32 Know the Difference between Active and Passive Voice 96
33 Ditch Weakling Verbs 97
34 Ditch Adverbs, Except When They Adjust the Meaning 98
35 Use Clichés Only Once in a Blue Moon 101
36 Avoid These Mistakes Marketers Make 103
37 Break Some Grammar Rules (At Least These Five) 107
38 Learn Words You’re Probably Misusing or Confusing with Other Words 109
39 Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy 117
40 Limit Moralizing 119
PART III STORY RULES 121
41 Tell How You’ll Change the World 123
42 Tell the Story Only You Can Tell 128
43 Voice and Tone 130
44 Look to Analogy instead of Example 135
PART IV PUBLISHING RULES 139
45 Wait. What’s Brand Journalism? 141
46 Tell the Truth 145
47 See Content Moments Everywhere 146
48 Post News That’s Really News 149
49 Biased and Balanced 150
50 Nonobvious Interview Tips 152
51 Fact-Check 156
52 Approach Content with ‘Mind Like Water’ 158
53 Seek Out the Best Sources 160
54 Be Aware of Hidden Agendas 161
55 Cite as You Write 162
56 Curate Ethically 166
57 Seek Permission, Not Forgiveness 170
58 Understand the Basics of Copyright, Fair Use, and For Attribution 174
59 Ground Content in Data 178
PART V 13 THINGS MARKETERS WRITE 181
60 The Ideal Length for Blog Posts, Podcast, Facebook Posts, Tweets, and Other Marketing Content 183
61 Writing for Twitter 188
62 Writing with Hashtags 196
63 Writing Social Media with Humor 202
64 Writing for Facebook 206
65 Writing for LinkedIn 210
66 Writing Your LinkedIn Profile 215
67 Writing for Email 219
68 Writing Landing Pages 225
69 Writing Headlines 234
70 Writing a Home Page 238
71 Writing the About Us Page 244
72 Writing Infographics That Won’t Make People Mock Infographics 249
73 Writing Better Blog Posts 254
74 Writing Annual Reports (or Annual Wrap-Ups) 257
PART VI CONTENT TOOLS 263
Research and Knowledge Management Tools 264
Writing Tools 265
Productivity Tools 266
Editing Tools 268
A Few Great Style Guides 269
Non-Text Writing Tools 271
Blog Idea Generators 271
Google Authorship 272
Image Sources (Or, Stock That Doesn’t Stink) 273
Acknowledgments for Tools 277
ANN HANDLEY is a veteran of creating and managing content. She is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a training and education company with the largest community of marketers in its category. Ann is a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur magazine, a member of the LinkedIn Influencer program, and the coauthor of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. She is also a keynote speaker, mom, and writer at AnnHandley.com.
Connect with her on Twitter via @annhandley.
In Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable, how-to advice designed to get results. Because in a content-driven world, everyone is, in fact, a writer.
“If you have a web site, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages,” explains Handley.
“In a time-challenged world dominated by short and snappy, by click-bait headlines and Twitter streams and Instagram feeds and GIFs and video and Snapchat and YOLO and LOL and #tbt. . . does the idea of focusing on writing seem pedantic and ordinary? Actually, writing matters more now, not less. Our online words are our emissaries; they tell the world who we are.”
Handley explores how the lessons and rules of creating good content apply across all of online assets —web pages, home page, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Handley deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content - whether a big brand or small and solo.
“Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring,” Handley adds. “That means we’ve got to choose words well, and write with economy and the style and honest empathy for our customers. And it means you put a new value on an often-overlooked skill in content marketing: How to write, and how to tell a true story really, really well.”
The book is separated into six sections; each deals with a different dimension of content:
- How to Write Better (and How to Hate Writing Less)—the latter for the recovering or traumatized writer—offers some handy scaffolding and blueprints for better thinking and writing.
- Grammar and Usage discusses the stuff most people consider writing. It gives readers some grammar rules and tools to help them choose better words and craft better sentences and paragraphs . . . to help them start flexing your content muscles.
- Story Rules (Part 3) and Publishing Rules (Part 4). The first provides some guidelines on elements that will infuse content with heart and soul and integrity, and layer it with a warm blanket of trust. There’s a lot to learn here from the ground rules of journalism and publishing, so those are covered in the part that follows.
- 13 Things Marketers Write, which gives readers a super-tactical look at typical marketing tasks.
- Content Tools gives readers a reference list of resources and paraphernalia to help them produce their best work.
Handley adds, “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. Writing well is considered a kind of art, linked murkily to muse and mysticism. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves—and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife.
“But I don’t believe that, and neither should you. The truth is this: writing well is part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn. We are all capable of producing good writing. Or, at least, better writing!”