Published on September 6th, 2013 | by Dan Walsh10
Writing Lessons From A Dead Man
David Ogilvy was one of the finest writers of his time and ours. He was clear, persuasive, and the original mad man. He founded the advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather in 1948 and practically invented advertising as we know it. His most famous book, Ogilvy on Advertising is practically the college textbook for advertising classes. I recently discovered one of his lesser known books, The Unpublished David Ogilvy, which is a collection of his memos, letters, lists, speeches and essays. He wrote the following list, as a memo, to his entire staff to perk up their writing skills. I have especially taken numbers 3, 5, and 9 to heart.
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.
Get the book on Amazon: The Unpublished David Ogilvy
Does Ogilvy’s list still hold up in our day of emails and Twitter?