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10 Rules for Great Writing from David Ogilvy


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Updated Sep 2014. Find out why technology marketers in 2014 should learn from the 60s from the greatest copywriter of all time, David Ogilvy from Ogilvy and Mather. Get more writing hints at

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10 Rules for Great Writing from David Ogilvy

  1. 1. 10 rules for GREAT WRITING from David Ogilvy Image: wikimedia commons …and why technology marketers in 2014 should learn them
  2. 2. Who was David Ogilvy? “You can’t bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.” Maybe the greatest copywriter of all time. Founder of Ogilvy & Mather in 1948. Man of insight and wisdom. …mmm. Still true in 2014?
  3. 3. His 10 rules
  4. 4. …so how do they apply to technology marketing in 2014?
  5. 5. 1. Write clearly Roman & Raphaelson is still available or just read this Forbes article …the more complex your technology, the clearer you have to write
  6. 6. Write as you speak Be direct Sound like a human 2. Be natural …the more complex your technology, the more human you have to make it
  7. 7. ACK DHCP FDDI IPS IoT TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) FLAs (Four letter Acronyms) Industry speak •Drop them if you can •If you can’t, explain •Write for business readers •Keep it simple 3. No jargon …nothing loses readers faster than forcing them to look up stuff
  8. 8. 4. Be short Sentences 14 words English not Latin words Paragraphs 4 lines ..adds pace and urgency …makes complexity easier to grasp
  9. 9. 5. Be brief e.g. White Papers, reports •Write an exec summary •Create a 2 page snapshot •Link to the full version …if the short is compelling they’ll make time to read the long
  10. 10. 6. Check quotes Choose the strongest Discard the rest Check accuracy Attribute them Use numbers for impact 86% of victims had evidence of breach 96% of breaches were avoidable Verizon Business, Data Breach Investigation Report 2013 …less is much more
  11. 11. 7. Sleep on it If: •It’s important but not urgent •You’re angry or excited •It could be misread Especially for: •Emails •Memos •Anything affecting others
  12. 12. 8. Get it checked Especially in technology marketing, colleagues can: •Add insights •Spot lack of clarity •Pick up tiny errors •Be objective (brutal) …but be sure to ‘smoothe’ input into one voice
  13. 13. 9. Make action clear Especially for: •Landing pages •Special offers •Marketing emails •Memos …don’t confuse them with choice. Make one clear call to action
  14. 14. 10. Get personal If you want action right now - don’t write Pick up the phone Knock on the door Go over and talk …a 2 minute conversation is quicker than editing a note for 10.
  15. 15. What One of the World’s Great Novelists Learned About Writing from David Ogilvy (Copyblogger) The Secret Behind David Ogilvy’s Brilliant Headline Copywriting (Bradley Gauthier) 8 Keys To Better Business Writing (Forbes) Read more
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