Advice from the Masters: David Ogilvy

Jul 11, 2012 | Better Writing

David Ogilvy was a legendary advertising guru with good advice sprinkled through his books and many interviews. His Confessions of an Advertising Man has been a companion of mine since the 1960s. I paid 75 cents for the paperback version. The spine is now broken, but it has all my highlights and notes in it, so I keep it. Ogilvy on Advertising is full of lessons he learned in close to forty years in advertising.

But the book I love most among my Ogilvy collection, and the one I browse most often, is The Unpublished David Ogilvy. That book contains excerpts from Ogilvy’s private and public papers. One chapter is devoted to lists and in that chapter there is a list of instructions on “How to Write.” Here it is.

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times. [Note: Joel Raphaelson edited The Unpublished David Ogilvy]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, judgementally. 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 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 memo, make sure that 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.

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts.

Sign Up For Blog Posts Via Email