20 principles, Art of Good Writing – Part I
The power of words “They sing. They hurt and They teach”.
We live by words like LOVE, TRUTH & GOD we and fight for words like FREEDOM, GLORY & HONOR.
They bestow the priceless gift of articulacy on our minds and hearts.
When you are speaking for Ogilvy, your writing must meet their standards. This allows ample room for individuality and freshness of expression. But “personal style” is not an excuse for sloppy or unprofessional writing.
There are creative people in advertising who think and then create great campaigns. And then there is a rare breed of geniuses for whom creativity is not a professional onus; it’s a way of life. David Ogilvy belongs to this breed. The Unpublished David Ogilvy proves this beyond doubt.
Some suggestions to improve your writing – The 20 principles that all good writers must follow.
1. Keep in mind, the reader doesn’t have much time
What you write must be clear on the first reading. If you want your paper to be read by senior people, remember that they have punishing schedules, evening engagements, and bulging briefcases. The shorter your paper, the better the chance it will be read at higher levels.
During World War II, no document of more than one page was allowed to reach Churchill’s desk.
2. Know where you are going
Know where you are going and tell the reader. Start with an outline to organize your argument. Begin important paragraphs with topic sentences that tell what follows. Conclude with a summary paragraph.
An outline not only helps the reader; it keeps you from getting lost en route. Compile a list of all your points before you start.
3. Make the flow of your writing easy to read
For extra emphasis, underline entire sentences. Number your points, as we do in this section. Put main points into indented paragraphs like this.
4. Short sentences & short paragraphs are always good
Short sentences and short paragraphs are easier to read than long ones. Send telegrams, not essays. The only link between you and the reader is the sentence you’re making. You can say smart, interesting, complicated things using short sentences.
How long is a good idea? Does it become less good if it’s expressed in two sentences instead of one?
There’s nothing wrong with well-made, strongly constructed, purposeful long sentences. But long sentences often tend to collapse or break down or become opaque or trip over their awkwardness.
5. Make your writings vigorous and direct
Wherever possible use active verbs, and avoid the passive voice.
|We are concerned that if this
recommendation is turned down,
the brand’s market share may be
|We believe you must act on this
recommendation to hold the
6. Avoid clichés. Find your own words
Clichés are overused words to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.
|Turn over every rock for a solution.
Put it to the acid test.
Few and far between
Last but not least
7. Avoid vague modifiers
Avoid vague modifiers such as “very” and “slightly.” Search for the word or phrase that precisely states your meaning.
Slightly behind schedule
| Overspent by $1,000
One day late
8. Avoid technical jargon as much as possible
Use specific concrete language. Avoid technical jargon, what E. B. White calls “the language of mutilation.” There are always simple, down-to-earth words that says the same thing
as the showoff fad word or the abstraction.
To talk with
Effective, to have results
|It is believed that with the parameters that have been imposed by your management, a viable solution may be hard to find. If we are to impact the consumer to the optimum, further interface with your management may be the most meaningful step to take||We believe that the limits your
management gave us may rule out a practical solution. If we want our consumer program to succeed, maybe we ought to talk with your management again.
9. Find the right words
Know the precise meaning of the words you use. Use your dictionary, and your thesaurus. Don’t confuse words like these:
|To “affect” something is to have
an influence on it. (The new campaign affects few attitudes.)
|“Effect” can means to bring about (verb) or a result (noun). (It effected no change in attitudes, and had no effect.)|
| “It’s” is the contraction of “it is.”
(It’s the advertising of P&G.)
| “Its” is the possessive form it “it” and does not take an apostrophe.
(Check P&G and its advertising.)
| “Principal” is the first in rank or
performance. (The principal
competition is P&G.
|“Principle” is a fundamental truth or rule. (The principle of competing with P&G is to have a good product.)|
|“Imply” means to suggest indirectly. (The writer implies itwon’t work.)|| “Infer” means to draw meaning
out of something. (The reader
infers it won’t work.)
|“i.e.” means “that is.”||“e.g.”means “for example.”|
When you confuse words like these, your reader is justified in concluding that you don’t know better. Illiteracy does not breed respect.
10. Don’t make spelling mistakes, cross check
When in doubt, check the dictionary. If you are congenitally a bad speller, make sure your final draft gets checked by someone who isn’t thus crippled. If your writing is careless, the reader may reasonably doubt the thoroughness of your thinking.
Read the second part of this article 20 principles, Art of Good Writing – Part II (Continued)
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