20 tips on writing skills for advertising account managers

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Back during my advertising days, not jus the copywriters, even the Account Management folks had to ‘write’ a lot. Minutes of meetings, creative briefs, emails or memos, communication proposal documents were all part of the job. I don’t know what kind of writing is expected of the present day advertising or digital agency folks, but these tips on writing skills – gleaned from an old deck (perhaps from the early 2000s) could be of use:

Most of us are not natural, gifted writers. We my hate the prospect of writing lengthy notes, proposals, articles, briefs and such like. These are seen as avoidable chores and often dismissed as something unimportant. But a well-written document (in whatever form) leaves behind a good impression and creates a ‘voice of authority’ perception. ‘People who think well, write well‘ said David Ogilvy in a famous memo from 1982. So if you have notions of not paying attention to the importance of written documents you might want a re-think.

  1. Every communication has a target audience. So does business communication.
  2. Always assume that the reader does not have the time or inclination to read your document – be it an email, brief or proposal.

3. Know where you are heading: AIM before you write:
– What ACTION you want your reader to take
– What INFORMATION does the reader need to act
– What MOTIVATION will make the reader act

4. Make it easy to read: use underlines, italics and such like to make it easy on the eye and drawing attention to the important parts

5. Write short sentences and paragraphs.

Gary Provost

6. Use active verbs wherever possible. ‘We believe you must act on this recommendation to hold the brand’s share‘ is bette than ‘We are concerned that if this recommendation is turned down, the brand’s market share may be negatively affected‘.

7. Be precise. Avoid vague modifiers. ‘We are one day behind schedule’ is better than ‘Slightly late on this project’.

8. Avoid cliches: ‘Remove’ is better than ‘iron out’.

9. Avoid jargon. This is common in marketing speak and using such is considered to be measure or reflection of how learned one is. In an article, The Economist says:

In the past, work was largely about producing, or selling, physical things such as bricks or electrical gadgets. A service-based economy involves tasks that are difficult to define. When it is hard to describe what you do, it is natural to resort to imprecise terms.


10. Find the right word. Know when to use ‘affect’ and ‘effect’.

11. Don’t make spelling mistakes. Don’t rely on a spell-check tool only to fix errors.

12. Don’t overwrite or overstate. Sometimes making a sales pitch even after the sale is made can be counter productive.

13. Come to the point – don’t beat around the bush.

14. Look out for ambiguous phrasing. We want the campaign visualized around summer. Do you want the theme to based on summer or the campaign to be thought through in summer?

15. Avoid unnecessary words. Basically, we all have this habit. ‘Despite the fact that’ can be replaced with ‘Although.’

16. Be concise, but readable

17. Don’t write like a lawyer or bureaucrat

18. If it is an important document, never be content with your first draft.

19. Have someone else look at what you’ve written.

20. Take time to write. Believe it is worth the effort.

Aside from these, some general thumb-rules on good writing:

  1. Understand your target
  2. Define your objective - Action - Information - Motivation
  3. Be concise
  4. Write short sentences
  5. Use simple words
  6. Make your letter easy to read
  7. Choose your tone of voice

CHECK before you hit the ‘send’ button:

  • Corrected all spelling & grammatical mistakes
  • Held the reader’s attention
  • Ensured you haven’t lost track of your AIM
  • Concluded appropriately
  • Kept it short

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