How to write by David Ogilvy

November 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

David Ogilvy is generally regarded as the father of advertising. Think Abraham in the Bible, Washington in the United States, Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Jacob Zuma in Nkandla.

On September 7 1982, he wrote this memo and called it: “A memo drafted by David Ogilvy for the management to circulate as they see fit”.

How to write

 The better you write, the higher you will go in Ogilvy & Mather.

People who think well, write well.
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 word, short sentences and short paragraphs

(4)          Never use jargon words like reconceptualise, 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 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.


This is the gospel according to David Ogilvy. He didn’t say this is the gospel, but you get my meaning. I think David was talking about writing memos and communicating clearly. I wonder what he thought of the Bible because it has way more than two pages.

§ 2 Responses to How to write by David Ogilvy

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