Ogilvy’s Lists – Rules of Writing

Posted by Nell Jonason in Creativity, Inspiration, Nordic.Agency, Writing – March 20, 2017

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David Ogilvy - the Father of Advertising - was a man of great authority and a distinguished creator of lists. In a memo to his employees, on september 7th of 1982, he shared what he deemed were the ultimate rules on how to write. The list has since been shared many times over by the millions of people who have come to admire his legacy. Timeless as it is, we’d like to share his advice with you. Because whether you’re a copywriter, a strategist, or a big marketing cheese, it applies to communication at large.

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.


  1. Write the way you talk. Naturally.


  1. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.


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


  1. Never write more than two pages on any subject.


  1. Check your quotations.


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


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


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


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

Dead on, isn’t it? We think so anyway. But communication can be easier said than done. Thankfully, as the official representatives of the Ogilvy PR Network in the Nordics, we have a few tricks up our sleeves – and we’re always happy to help! Let us know how you would like to optimize your communication by contacting us at the bottom of this page – we’ll discuss it over coffee!