Tips From A Century Ago: Write Clearly and Don’t Plagiarize

Planning on starting an email newsletter? Here are some tips on how—from 100 years ago.

That’s when the House Organ Association held a convention in 1918. It was co-sponsored by the Direct Mail Advertising Association, now known as the Data & Marketing Association.

Old-timers remember house organs–they were the magazines companies published to keep their customers informed. They served the same purpose as email newsletters. Here are some lessons from that October 1918 event, held in the closing weeks of World War I:

Don’t lift content from other publications. The prevailing attitude in 1918 was: “Why waste time rewriting or pay for stuff when there was plenty of it going the rounds for the mere trouble of taking it?”

Don’t steal artwork, another widespread practice. “It doesn’t make a tinker’s darn difference how much gray matter, sweat, time, ink, experience, execution and money was involved if a certain design or illustrated ‘looks good’ or is “just the thing” to illustrate some new fangled clock whose alarm tickles your toes—Use It! Trace it or photography it direct—but use it!” the speaker said.

Make sure that articles are relevant and engaging—they weren’t in most house organs. “Most are over-weighted with ponderous lectures by men who know their own departments, but unfortunately do not know how to WRITE,” a speaker complained.

The conference was organized into tracks like House Organs for Salesmen, House Organs for Dealers, and House Organs for Customers. The most crowded session was the one titled, “Why House Organs are essential in War time.” (It was because editors “have steadily made use of articles designed to aid in the organization of the country for war”).

Wisdom from the ancients.

 

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