More writing rules

rogersgeorge on May 12th, 2012

These rules are from a fellow I had never heard of, David Ogilvy. I found these on a site called Brain Pickings, in an article by Maria Popova.  The site is pretty interesting—go check it out. Here’s the list of writing rules:

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.

I put in a link to the book in rule 1. If you click the link and buy the book, I’ll get a pittance from Amazon. If you go Brain Pickings and click their link, they’ll get the pittance.

Be careful with rule 2—people talk messily, and good writing is a product of reflection. I wonder if my word “pretentiousism” fits in rule 4. Rule 5: Mr. Ogilvy was writing in a business memo context, I think. I can’t imagine that he would be against books, plays, and complete instructions. Rule 6 is just plain being responsible. You can generalize rule 7 to anything you write. That fish poem I wrote a couple posts back went through a good twenty revisions over at least four days. I like rule 10. Not being there in person one a minor problem of distributed teams: We can’t go stand over someone who is slow to respond.

David Ogilvy

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