How to write good.

How to write good



The recent AdSoc event with Rebecca and Lucie from Ogilvy got me thinking about good writing. I like to think I can make words read good and stuff, so I decided to compile a list of rules for good writing.

About 3 rules in I realised just how condescending this was – you guys are probably at least as good at writing as me, and you’d never be so presumptuous as to tell me how to do it well.

Instead, I’d like to share with you this memo circulated by the one and only David Ogilvy on the topic of good writing. You can find more gems like this in the amazing Unpublished David Ogilvy (1986).

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.



By Sean R Mills