Copywriters usually have a process for writing. And this week, they'll be happy to learn that it's probably more efficient than the one David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy and Mather, used in the 1950s. A letter he wrote reveals a laborious, and kind of ugly, system for creating ad copy.
Also, a behind-the-scenes look at the State of the Union speech, why digital writing is fragmented, and The New York Times
adopts "Web first" writing.
David Ogilvy: “I am a lousy copywriter.”
In 1955, famous adman David Ogilvy replied to a letter asking about his habits as a copywriter, which Ogilvy labeled "appalling." He then lists his 12-step process for producing ad copy. This includes leaving the office, researching 20 years' worth of ads, throwing away his first 20 attempts, drinking rum, and listening to Handel. He sums up the process this way: "Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility." Read his letter at Letters of Note
A behind-the-scenes look at the State of the Union.
The president's State of the Union speech may have been written at an eighth-grade level
, but it took a lot of long hours by highly paid people to produce it. In a nod to all the speechwriting and politics junkies, the White House this week released a video that gives a rare look at the people and the process behind drafting prime-time remarks. Interesting side note: The Obama White House doesn't do tracked changes. Read the story and watch the video at The L.A. Times
When it comes to digital media, it seems pretty much everything we read is fragmented writing, says writer Guy Patrick Cunningham. Tweets, blog posts, and even news stories are broken up by links and often are not even sentences. Cunningham looks at a pre-digital time to show that although fragmented writing has found a home on the Internet, it certainly didn't start or stop there. Beckett, Kafka, and others actually wrote entire books containing fragments. There's even a book composed entirely of tweets that form a linear story. Read the story at The Millions
13 writing tips from Chuck Palahniuk.
Those who haven’t read Palahniuk know him as the guy who wrote "Fight Club," if they know of him at all. But the author of 14 books also has a website that features a number of essays on writing. In this one, he offers what are, according to him, maybe all his best writing tips. Many are geared toward writing fiction, but there are several that are helpful to any kind of writer. Read the full essay here
New York Times writing for the Web first.
launched in 1996, the paper has written articles with a "print first" mentality, later converting them to the Web. Now, The Gray Lady is moving to a "Web first" philosophy. According to the paper's Open
blog (devoted to code-writing,) "Over the past couple of years, the demands of a 24 x 7 real-time news cycle, a rise in social media, and many innovations in interactive storytelling, have made writing in a print newspaper CMS, then converting text for the Web seem less of a good idea." Its solution was to produce a new text editing plug-in called Integrated Content Editor (ICE), which will help reporters and editors track changes across multiple versions in WordPress. You can read the story here
. This is a code-writing blog, so it gets a little geeky.
Evan Peterson is a writer and communications pro in Chicago who has written speeches for executives and presidential cabinet members. His writing has appeared in
The Christian Science Monitor,
Politico, and other publications.
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