How To Write

I came across these 10 good tips on writing well for business. This is from a 1982 internal memo by David Ogilvy, a famous businessman.

His ideas apply to creative writing too, I think. I studied business writing and rhetoric in college, as well as creative writing. I believe all writing skills inform each other.

I’m going to follow his list by repeating it with my thoughts. Because, you know, I’m a writer and it’s my blog. I have to do the heavy lifting around here.

  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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