Advertising Executive David Ogilvy’s 10 Tips on Writing Well

David Ogilvy, iconic advertising executive

It is far more important to write well than most people realize. Writing does not just communicate ideas; it generates them—in the minds of both the author and the reader.

Here is some invaluable wisdom from iconic advertising executive David Ogilvy. On 07-Sep-1982, the “The Father of Advertising” sent the following internal memo to employees of his advertising firm, The Ogilvy Group, titled “How to Write.”

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

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

  1. 'Writing That Works; How to Communicate Effectively In Business' by Kenneth Roman, Joel Raphaelson (ISBN 0060956437) Read the Roman-Raphaelson book (Writing That Works; How to Communicate Effectively In Business by Kenneth Roman, Joel Raphaelson) 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 your 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.

Source: 'The Unpublished David Ogilvy' by David Ogilvy (ISBN 1781250871) ‘The Unpublished David Ogilvy’ by David Ogilvy. David Ogilvy’s work and philosophy was rooted in a belief in the buyer, a fondness for family values and a deep attachment to the value of unadorned English in copy.

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