“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.
- 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.
Source: The Unpublished David Ogilvy (1986)