Ogilvy’s Guide to Writing Well

If you’ve ever wanted a short concise guide to writing well, you’ve essentially got three options to choose from:

1) William Zinsser’s On Writing Well
2) Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (free reference link)
3) David Ogilvy’s infamous memo titled “How to Write”

While the top two books are quite portable, by reference books’ standards, I prefer Ogilvy’s version. It’s less than a page long! Yup, just copy the rules below into a word processor and hit PRINT. Stick it to the wall in front of you. Frame it, if the spirit moves you!

This isn’t just timeless advice for writers or advertisers. If you write, anything at all, this is the rule book (well, a page actually) that you should live by.

Here it goes:

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

Write the way you talk. Naturally.

Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

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

Never write more than two pages on any subject.

Check your quotations.

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

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

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

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

Read The Unpublished David Ogilvy for more insights and wisdom from the greatest advertiser ever lived. Another useful book that I personally refer to often is The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus.

Read these to take your writing a notch above the rest.

So, what are you writing today?

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