Iconic businessman David Ogilvy had good advice for writers in agencies and offices, issuing a 10-point list of tips for how writers could improve and elevate their work. On September 7th, 1982, Ogilvy sent a memo to Ogilvy Mather agency employees, titled “How to Write”, and it was later republished in the 1986 collection The Unpublished David Ogilvy. There are plenty of smart ideas in his memo, but I’m a fan of No. 8 and No. 10.
“Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.
Smart ideas from somebody who knew something about ideas!