David Ogilvy’s 10 Tips for Business Writing

David Ogilvy, the iconic advertising maven and founder of Ogilvy & Mather, understood the power of good writing and knew how to inspire it. His classic book, Ogilvy on Advertising, is one of my favorites in the industry, and it has stood the test of time. For those aspiring writers—or those who hire writers to tell their organization’s story—this little easy-to-read book is a must read.

Today I’ll share excerpts from an internal memo on writing for business.

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.
  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.

The demand for good writing is only growing, and businesses represented by people who know how to write well will have a competitive advantage.

Image Source: www.amazon.com

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