Monday, June 23, 2014

David Ogilvy, Father of Advertising, on the 10 Rules for Good Writing

David Ogilvy, one of the original Mad Men, an actual advertising giant once noted, "I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance."

Wisely put.

In 1962, Time called him "the most sought-after wizard in today's advertising industry." 

Think of him as Don Draper, I suppose. But maybe minus the aesthetic superiority of Jon Hamm. The guy can't have it all, after all.

Ogilvy excelled in the world of advertising, some would say he set the tone for how advertising ought to be done: by being involved with the product start to finish. One cannot be proficient in talking about a product without being able to sell it first. Talk without sell is cheap.

Ogilvy was a researcher at heart. His educational background had something to do with him having been at Oxford and, incidentally, he professionally referred to himself as an advertising researcher.

The first  job he held was that of a door-to-door salesman of AGA cooking stoves. He did so well with it that his employer asked him to write the instruction manual for other salespeople. Fortune magazine actually refers to this as the finest manual ever written. He was the best at selling it and he also happened to be the best writing about it. The correlation between both skills is indisputable.

Selling, much like writing is not just a skill one is born with but rather something one needs to work on heavily. It's only by way of much disciplined learning and practice that one can master both.

As I have been reading up on him, a few things jumped at me. One of them being the 10 Rules of Writing. I found them useful. You might too 

  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.

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