I am a writer. You are a writer, too.

We are all writers

Think you’re not a writer? Then read Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann HandleyYou’ll probably agree with Handley that we are all writers and we should therefore be the best writers we can be.

I applaud the clear and logical structure of her book; its six main sections are:

  1. Writing rules (writing process)
  2. Writing rules (grammar and usage)
  3. Story rules
  4. Publishing rules
  5. Things marketers write
  6. Content tools

However, I did wonder why this 21st Century book about writing (mostly) marketing material for social media used Roman numerals for its numbered lists (WordPress doesn’t even have Roman numerals).

Why you writers might like this book too

I think you might appreciate Chapters 20 to 28, which promote a writing process based on constant, continuous, almost compulsive writing.

  • Chapter 9, “Embrace the Ugly First Draft (TUFD),” recognizes and applauds this necessary, most difficult step in the writing process. “Recognize that brilliance—or anything close to it—comes on the rewrite,” says Handley. (p. 41) She’s right, too. Writing teacher Don Murray agrees: “The draft needs fixing, but first it needs writing.” (p. 41)
  • Chapter 27 is titled “Set a Goal Based on Word Count (Not Time).” As Handley says early in the book, “There are no shortcuts to becoming a better writer. So show up at your desk and get to it. Daily.” (p. 19)

How this book disappointed me (I’m a teacher of writers)

  • It still seems clear to me that Handley comes dangerously close to plagiarizing Rudolf Flesch’s description of readability (see my recent blog post).
  • I like her criticism of buzzwords, jargon, and cliches. I teach that principle myself. However, I found myself stumbling over her cliches, for example, “If I had a nickel for every time…” and made-up buzzwords like “Weblish” (p. 95) and “Frankenspeak” (p. 67). I know her primary audience is writers who produce content to feed into social media, but I wish she would practice what she preaches (oh, sorry—I used a cliché).
  • Her Chapter 32 (Know the Difference between Active and Passive Voice) is only one page and her examples aren’t very clear. She doesn’t explain that readers process active voice more easily than passive voice.

My favorite parts of this book for writers

  • Part VI, Content Tools (pages 263-275) is an amazing list of online tools for writers. It will take me months to check out these tools and share the best with you. I will also share some of these tools in my tech writing webinars and post them on my Webliography.
  • The Epilogue (p. 279) sums up Handley’s message with a quote from E.B. White: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

I agree.

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