David Ogilvy's Timeless Memo On Writing

A memo from the legend himself will help you communicate clearer at work, at home and beyond

Still working on what I want this newsletter to look like, but trying to get back into the groove of publishing again so sharing some old (but good) ideas that are worth a fresh read. David Ogilvy is one of the most quoted advertising professionals and a legend in the space. So when I saw someone pulled up an internal memo sent to all employees of his advertising agency in 1982 I took note.

Today I thought we’d share David’s memo with you for some pre-holiday inspiration:

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.

And for your moment of zen, in case you haven’t seen it, this video from David on the importance of direct marketing is unmissable.