After several years of wanting to write better I have come to the conclusion that is takes lots of practice and ton of determination.
Good writing is not a natural gift (well it might be for some) but if you want to write well you have to study style and word-mechanics. Then at some point when you have learned from the master’s (like David Ogilvy), you need to find your own voice and spill that into your sentences, paragraphs and descriptions.
David Ogilvy made his career in advertising and was a wonderful copy writer. He disliked advertisements that had loud patronizing voices, and believed a customer should be treated as intelligent. He said, “the customer is not a moron, she’s your wife” which said much about his humor and humanity.
Here are David’s ten tips for writing well:
- 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, judgmentally. 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 on 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 your 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.
Of course these tips were written before email, text, facebook and all of those other digital homes that we occupy—yet they are as relevant today in our new virtual hide-outs then they were back when you were writing a memo at your desk.