Dear Ann

When I first heard about your new book, Everybody Writes, I was ready to call my lawyer. Our ideas are so much alike, I figured you’d copied my book, Write Like You Talk Only Better.  Actually, I was flattered.

everybody writesLike me, you believe that pretty much anyone can write, provided they follow a solid process. That’s why you called your book “Everybody Writes.” My PR mentors  brought me up to believe that you need to precede “everybody” with “almost” to maintain your credibility, though I admire your spunk.

After reading a couple posts and listening to a podcast, I was so confident I’d like your book that included it on a short list of must-reads for a business writing workshop I was teaching. I was not disappointed.

You had me at being the last girl picked for the baseball team. Just as you and I had to overcome our lack of natural physical prowess through trainers and gyms, so can people whose writing seems clumsy build the muscle and coordination they need to write strongly. Well said.

Almost everybody writes, we agree.  As in preparing a presentation, composing an email, creating a plan, texting, collaborating or chatting online, practically  everyone relies on the written word.

I say they need a road map. You, younger sister, say they need a GPS.

We both understand that writing is less about making words pretty and more about thinking. Although your process is broken down into more steps, our road map/GPS process is strikingly similar. Think about who you’re writing for, what you want to focus on and how you’re going to explain it before you start.  “Think before you ink,” as you say.

We also insist that you think again after you’ve written that big ugly first draft, so you can shorten, organize and improve.

Our grammar points echo. I’ve become even more adamant about ignoring dangling participles, split infinitives and other old-fashioned rules since I started teaching and discovered that nobody (or should I say almost nobody) learns them anymore.

I handle the first draft process a little differently than you, advising people to simply imagine they’re having a conversation with the person they most want to connect with. That’s because my target reader loves talking, almost everybody’s first and favorite way to communicate. I also point out that many of our errors go back to people relying on what sounds right.

No problem. We’re sisters, not identical twins.

Let me stress you are the smarter sister. In real life I grew up with a younger brother whose IQ blew nearly everyone out of the water, so I’m used to smarter siblings. No hard feelings, though a Christmas card might be nice.

While my general advice is intended for almost any kind of content, you broke yours down specifically for LinkedIn profiles, landing pages and lots more. Very comprehensive.

On top of that, you sprinkled your book with many helpful sites and tools, magic fairy dust for content creators. This was one of the best examples I’ve seen of links in e-books. I hope everybody’s reading it that way. I know I’ll go back and explore many of these valuable references again and again.

Sure, I have the odd quibble, such as your approval of emails that come from a company instead of a person, your use of “tasked with” and the occasional YA-DA-YA-DA (an expression we both use), despite your admonitions to the contrary.

But on the whole, this is best book I have read about writing since Stephen King’s On Writing. And the best book on nonfiction writing since Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. A go-to guide indeed.

I know it’s a little awkward having a relatively unknown blogger/teacher/crone try to claim you as a sister. But if you’d like to glimpse our kindred spirit, please read my book Write Like You Talk Only Better, which I’ve attached for you. You get me.

I know you’re busy, what with book tours, Marketing Profs, and all that other high-rolling stuff you do.  So I won’t be hurt if you don’t get back to me right away.

I hope you’ll remember, when you receive that Christmas card from Toronto Canada, that there is another business writer out there who thinks like you and applauds how you’re saving us from hours, make that decades, of reading tedium and writing frustration.

With the exception of most trained staff in communication and marketing and random beacons in other departments, everybody writes ridiculously bad content. But if they read your book–or mine if you they have only a few hours to spare—they can go from spending the game on the bench, like we did in high school, to scoring home runs.

Thank you so much. And let me know if you’re coming to Toronto. You’re welcome to stay in my guest room.


Your older but not wiser sister, Barb

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Letter to my younger sister Ann Handley

3 thoughts on “Letter to my younger sister Ann Handley

  • October 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Barb, I think you and Ann would get along famously.
    Clever concept for a book review!

  • October 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks, Donna. I sent her the book this afternoon. Hope she reads it. Even better, sends me a Christmas card.

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