October 07th, 2019
David Ogilvy was a legend in the advertising biz. Given my former career in marketing, I admired his prowess.
In 1982, Ogilvy sent the following memo to all of his agency’s employees. The subject was "HOW TO WRITE". (I think, what with the "woolly" reference, he may have been a bit peeved at their lethargy.) Here's what he said...
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) Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times. [This refers to “Writing That Works, 3rd Edition: How to Communicate Effectively in Business”. Reading it 3 times seems a tad excessive but, hey, Ogilvy was Ogilvy!]
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. [Right on: see my recent blog entry on "curated" and "challenge": https://www.anauthorslife.blog/blog/a-curated-vacation-please]
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.
Thanks Mr. Ogilvy. So much of what you wrote almost 40 years ago still resonates today.
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