It’s funny how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Like the fact that, despite numerous advances in communications technology (mobile phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook), the principles of good communication really have not changed. Unfortunately, we often ignore (or have completely forgotten) these time-tested tenets in favor of the ease of response afforded by today’s technologies.
More than 30 years ago, David Ogilvy (pictured above), one of the original Mad Men, wrote and circulated a memo to his top management. The memo, titled “How To Write,” cites ten simple suggestions for effective communication, which are as timely today as they ever were. As Ogilvy himself put it, “Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well.”
Ogilvy’s “Hints” for How To Write
- Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.
- Write the way you talk. Naturally.
- Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgementally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.
- Never write more than two pages on any subject.
- Check your quotations.
- Never send a letter or a memo the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.
- If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.
- Before you send your letter or memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.
- If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.