10 Tips on Writing from the original Mad Man

shared 10 tips on writing from advertizing legend David Ogilvy.

1. 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.

These are good tips from a man who knew how to get his way with words. Kenneth Roman, writing in Strategy+Business observed that good writing was part of the culture Ogilvy nurtured around him.

“It did not escape our notice that everyone in the upper levels of Ogilvy knew how to write — and write very well,” said the head of an agency newly acquired by Ogilvy. Discipline in writing was a mark of the culture. Ogilvy considered himself an advertising writer, nothing more. “If I were a really creative writer, like my cousin and great friend Rebecca West, I would probably prefer to seek fame as an author — instead of devoting my pen to the services of Rinso,” he said.

Being edited by Ogilvy was like being operated on by a great surgeon who could put his hand on the only tender organ in your body. You could feel him put his finger on the wrong word, the soft phrase, the incomplete thought.

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