David Ogilvy's 10 Tips for Clear, Concise Writing & 10 Qualities of Creative Leaders

By Paul Birdwell (paul@roaringforkagency.com)

If there is one thing we could always stand to better here at the Roaring Fork Agency it is to…

Write Better

…..and with that in mind it is never a bad time tor review the memo that famous advertising man David Ogilvy sent to his employees in September 1982 which was recently referenced in an article at PR Daily:

David Ogilvy's 10 tips for clear, concise writing, David Wright Smith, PR Daily


"Today we study Ogilvy's successful advertising campaigns to learn how to persuade prospective customers, influence readers and create memorable, evergreen content. But the "father of advertising" also has plenty to teach us about productivity, branding, research, ambition—and writing.

On Sept. 7, 1982, Ogilvy sent the following internal memo, titled "How to Write," to his employees:

"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."


Thanks to David Wright Smith for reminding us again of the simple greatness of David Ogilvy.

Below is an Ad Week video on David Ogilvy titled Essentials:

A great David Ogilvy book that we always have nearby to flip through when we have a spare few minutes is....

Unpublished David Ogilvy, Amazon.com


....in which Ogilvy lists the 10 Qualities he looks for in Creative Leaders which not surprisingly are the defining characteristics of most successful people from any walk of life:

1.  High standards of personal ethics.
2.  Big people, without pettiness.
3.  Guts under pressure, resilience in defeat.
4.  Brilliant brains — not safe plodders.
5.  A capacity for hard work and midnight oil.
6.  Charisma — charm and persuasiveness.
7.  A streak of unorthodoxy — creative innovators.
8.  The courage to make tough decisions.
9.  Inspiring enthusiasts — with trust and gusto.
10.  A sense of humor.


Yes, a hearty thanks is in order to the Late Great David Ogilvy for his great advice and continued inspiration to those of us that work every day to try and engage our fellow human beings in an interesting way so they will consider purchasing our clients products and services!


Ogilvy & Mather - www.ogilvy.com

Ogilvy & Mather Biography of David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy on Wikipedia

If you have any questions about event sponsorship or venue naming rights contact the Roaring Fork Agency at:


San Francisco, California – 415 730 – 4854

Seattle, Washington – 206 940 – 3934

Bend, Oregon – 541 640 – 2221


Twitter - @RoaringForkAgcy