David Ogilvy’s writing wisdom holds up 31 years later

The ‘father of advertising’ laid out his rules for writing in a 1982 memo. The tenets of avoiding jargon, keeping it brief, and valuing clarity haven’t changed.


Jargon is the “hallmark of a pretentious ass.”

That’s part of rule No. 4 from David Ogilvy’s 1982 memo, “How to Write,” which was posted on the Ogilvy & Mather Facebook page Monday. It’s a great, quick read from the “the father of advertising.”

For its small size, the memo contains some fantastic nuggets, such as, “People who think well, write well.”

When it comes to writing a letter or memo, he advises to never send it the same day you write it. “Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.”

Other tips include:

  • “Write the way you talk. Naturally.”
  • “Never write more than two pages on any subject.”
  • “Check your quotations.”
  • “If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.”

Of course, rules are made to be broken. Right, Don Draper?

(Image via)

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