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CityU Library Reviews “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content”
Review by Theresa Gehrig, Librarian
If you used Handely’s guide only to improve your emails, the impact would be significant. Most business professionals (you!) spend 13 hours a week managing writing or responding to emails. With a background in journalism and marketing, Handley is committed to helping you write all your content – whatever form that takes. This book is intended to be visited again and again. She offers short punchy chapters you can dip in for one tip or focus on more completely.
You don’t think of your occupation as Writer. But Ann Handley wants you to see your emails, tweets, reports, and Blackboard posts qualify you as a Writer. Every Submit, Post, Send is publishing! But more important, each Submit, Post, Send is an opportunity to influence, sell, or serve your reader, student or customer.
Handley advises first and often: Develop pathological empathy for your “reader” (aka customer, student, colleague, audience…). Her “more think, less ink” encourages you to invest time getting to know your “reader”. What are the reader’s experiences, habitat, needs, challenges, pains? What can you do for your reader? What burdens or problems can you solve for the reader? What motivates the reader? Does the reader see you as a real person they can trust? Even the “About Us” of a website is not about ‘us’, it is about the reader’s needs and wants. Once you have a clear understanding of your reader, write out of this empathy.
Handley follows her own rules of simple, direct writing with keen empathy for you. Here are chapter titles or guides to inspire you to delve deeper:
- Place the most important words and ideas at the beginning of each sentence.
- Use short meaningful email subject lines (50 characters max)
- Remove the introductory text or paragraph
- Make each sentence (or paragraph) earn its keep
- Know the difference between Active and Passive Voice
- Will one word serve instead of a phrase? In order to = To
- Show don’t tell
- Set a goal based on word count (not time)
- Deadlines are the WD-40 of writing
- End with a call to action
Handley helps you recognize a squandered opportunity to write for your reader. This leads to the last rule I’ll share: Publishing is a privilege, not a right. This is a hard concept to embrace when it is so easy to write and publish anytime, anywhere. And we are all so busy we hit Send or Post in a panic to get on to the next task! Consider the risks of not “swapping places with our readers”. Do you write as if your students are mind readers? You know what you mean, but can they read it?
Everybody writes: Your go-to guide to creating ridiculously good content. Handley, Ann. 2014. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. 298 pages. Check WorldCat.org or your local public library to find a copy.
Any and all programs would benefit from reading this book in part or in full.
Please note: Resources listed with [Login Required] are available to CityU students, faculty and staff, and may be available to other readers through their local libraries.
- Handley, A. (2015). Before you hit ‘send’…. Entrepreneur, 43(1), 28-29. [Login Required]
- Handley, A. (2015). Don’t be tone-deaf. Entrepreneur, 43(4), 28-30. [Login Required]
- Handley, A. (2014). Detox your inbox. Entrepreneur, 42(11), 34-36. [Login Required]
- Handley, A. (2014). The welcome mat. Entrepreneur, 42(7), 32-34. [Login Required]
- Ann Handley’s website. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://annhandley.com
- Ann Handley: How to tell stories in your marketing | AQ’s Blog & Grill [Video file]. (2013, October 16). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIHbLjqOZE8
- Ann Handley Chief Content Officer | Bestselling Author (Speaker’s Spotlight). (2014, July 8). Retrieved from http://www.speakers.ca/speakers/ann-handley/
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