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How to Write

10 tips on writing by David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy was dubbed in his obituary as "the father of soft sell in advertising". He founded and managed the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. His work is still an inspiration to advertising executives today. An example?

At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.

In 1982, Ogilvy sent a short memo to all agency employees, titled “How to Write”.

It started like this:

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:

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1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

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2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

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3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

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4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

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5. Check your quotations.

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6. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

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7. Never send a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning and then edit it.

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8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

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9. Before you send your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

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10. If you want ACTION, don't write. Go and tell the guy what you want.