How to be a con man, and 5 other great lists

Lists of Note is from the guy who brings you the ever brilliant Letters of Note.

Contrary to popular belief, numbered lists have been around for longer than the blogosphere, and indeed for longer than the internet.

These 10 commandments for Con Men are good. A sample:

  • Be a patient listener (it is this, not fast talking, that gets a con-man his coups).
  • Never look bored.
  • Wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with them.
  • Let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones.

I also enjoyed:

  1. Fumblerules of Grammar“Late-1979, New York Times columnist William Safire compiled a list of “Fumblerules of Grammar” — rules of writing, all of which are humorously self-contradictory”
  2. Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing“In the early-1930s, as he wrote what would become his first published novel — the hugely influential Tropic of Cancer — Henry Miller wrote a list of 11 commandments, to be followed by himself.”
  3. The rules for the Anti-Flirt Club“In the early-1920s in Washington, D. C., a lady named Alice Reighly founded the Anti-Flirt Club — an organisation “composed of young women and girls who have been embarrassed by men in automobiles and on street corners,” and which aimed to protect such women from future embarrassment.”
  4. Rules for Wives“In 1923, the Legal Aid Society of New York City published some advice to wives in the area, in the form of the following list of rules.” 
  5. How to Write – advertising legend David Ogilvy wrote a letter to his staff. Part encouragement. Part motivational lecture. Part kick up the bum.

The last one strikes me as either being straight out of Mad Men, or a preaching class. So I’ll reproduce it in full.

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing*. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

6. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don’t write. Go and tell the guy what you want.

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