David Ogilvy’s Top 10 Writing Tips

David Ogilvy’s Top 10 Writing Tips

We can all learn something from David Ogilvy, the king of advertising and what many like to say, the original mad man. In his many years as an ad exec, he produced some of the most thoughtful and successful ad campaigns for big brands. 

Most known for his ability to communicate a clear vision through his advertising campaigns and copy, David left fellow advertising insiders with some valuable insight. In an internal memo to his employees entitled, ‘How to Write” David discusses his top 10 tips for copywriting as follows. 

 “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 pretense.

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.”