HIGHLIGHTED: Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Photo of Ann Handley

Author Ann Handley

Writing is easy. Writing well is hard. (But with some practice, you can do it.)

If you’re a content marketer, you probably spend a lot of time at the keyboard. You may not think of your emails, tweets, and creative briefs as “writing with a capital W,” but it is writing nonetheless. You may as well be good at it.

Ann Handley is very good at writing. So good, in fact, that she can help you become a better writer. Ann’s bestselling book “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content” is an excellent tutorial for novice and experienced writers.

I read “Everybody Writes” a few years ago when I interviewed Ann at Content Marketing World. I decided that my own writing needed a bit of improvement, so I descended on Ann’s book with my trusty highlighter. Ann’s book on writing is the book that professional writers read for inspiration and instruction. Continue reading

Write a Website, Not a Novel

Stack of keyboards

Write less. Write better.

Never use ten words, when you can say it in five. Never use a ten-buck word, when a five-buck word will do.

These are old phrases that I remember from my days working as a journalist. The idea was not to dazzle people with your thesaurus, but to communicate and report your story. Save the flowery language, they used to say, for your novel.

If you’re developing your content strategy for your new brand website, be sure to include a section in the style guide about writing. Let your whole team know that the purpose of your website is to serve the needs of your users. It’s not an opportunity to stretch your legs as a writer and express yourself with brilliant prose. Continue reading

Write Less, Say More

As most copywriters will agree, it’s actually more difficult to write less than to write more. It’s easy to blabber on until you get around to making your point. That’s fairly easy.

Write tight. Now that’s hard.

This is especially true online. People aren’t necessarily looking to “read” your magical prose. They are looking to get to their destination content. They want you to help them get there with the least amount of clutter. Words — when abused — can be clutter.

Google is a company that is always trying to gain an extra edge in efficiency. Their famously austere homepage shows that they want nothing to stand in the way of your search.

Google gave Gmail a makeover. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their old homepage, they provided a side-by-side comparison. According to Google, they cut some 250 words from their copy. They are literally saying more by saying less. Or at least using fewer words.

It’s important to recognize when your reader actually wants more detail, particularly when they are trying to determine if your product or service is what they want. At that point, you need to give them the information they need to make a decision about your product or service.

Check out your own website. Could your copy go for a little nip/tuck? Is your otherwise smart, valuable service drowning in a sea of prose? If so, sharpen your pencils and start editing.

More reading:

Want to Write Better Content? Ask a Designer

Writers write. That’s what we do, right?

While we’re at it, maybe we should build a wall between us and those pesky Web Designers. Right? Wrong. Very wrong.

Back when I broke into this Internet business (circa 1995), there wasn’t a big difference between writers, web designers, and programmers. If you wanted to create for the web, you pretty much had to learn the technical tricks to get it up there. Basic HTML, Photoshop, etc.

To learn about design, I spent time with print designers. They taught me critical lessons about how to control the eye on the page.

The most important thing they taught me was to…write less.

Designers often use white space to draw attention to a specific element in the layout. Most designers are excited about using their talents to help you communicate your message. But if you weigh it down with too much copy, it ties their hands.

Review every sentence, headline, subhead and picture caption. Ruthlessly trim the total number of words.

If you’re developing website copy, run a draft past a designer before submitting it to your clients. Designers will help you understand how much will fit on a page…and how much will suck the life out of the design.

The web is a visual medium. And writing less copy is one of the best ways to deliver messages with visual impact.