August 27, 2014

Wise Words: How To Write

Not only did one of the greatest Ad Men excel at writing copy for some of the most iconic advertising campaigns, but he was also an encouraging force for those who worked below him. In a memo drafted by David Ogilvy for the management to circulate as they saw fit, circa September 17, 1982, he gives 10 tips on how to write better. Although penned many years ago, this memo is still pretty relevant today.

How To Write

The better you write, the higher you will go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints.
  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times. 
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
  5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.
  6. Check your quotations.
  7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning - and then edit it.
  8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
  9. Before you send your letter or memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
  10. If you want ACTION, don't write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

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