Want to write lean and concise? Try writing ad copy — it's excellent training in the skill of combining persuasion with pith, muscle with mood. It's the haiku of commerce, and it's not easy.
No one likes advertising but everyone recalls a catchy jingle, a funny line, or a moving moment. Haven't you chuckled over an ad, or shyly wiped a tear after a 30-second spot?
David Ogilvy, the original Mad Man, was an ad exec known as the Father of Advertising. In 1982 he sent to all of his employees this memo:
How to Write
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:
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.
— memo via Brain Pickings