“Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.”
David Ogilvy (1911 – 1999) is frequently referred to as ‘the father of advertising’ or as ‘the original Mad Man’. Ogilvy first worked as a chef, a researcher and as a farmer before launching his own advertising agency in 1949 with just US$6000 in the bank. The Ogilvy Group would become one of the world’s most successful advertising agencies.
In 1982 Ogilvy sent the following memo to all of his agency’s employees:
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:
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 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.
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