Jamie Jauncey


Week 1

John to Jamie

Room 121

What is Room 121? Where is it? I guess we should set out what we mean.

We’re both writers. We write for business but we also write in other ways. We both believe that writing in different forms, such as novels and poetry, makes you a better writer for business. It’s a matter of engaging your heart and your mind.

A lot of business writing fails to engage the hearts and minds of the reader and the writer. Corporate-speak is the result.

But it needn’t be so. You can produce writing in a corporate context that makes a human connection. You simply have to write one to one, reaching out as one human being talking to another human being, not as one organisation sending information to another organisation. ‘Business to business’ is a well-worn phrase that immediately sets the wrong expectation.

So, as we write to each other through these exchanges, we know that we are writing one to one, me to you, you to me.  In doing so, we’ll explore what makes us the writers we are. And we’ll discuss what really works when you (“dear reader”) are writing for business, giving you tips, ideas and practical advice to make your communication more effective.

This means we share a space. It’s a space where you go to find new and better ways to write in the business environment. As you’ve now arrived at our reception, we’ll direct you to join us in that space. Let’s meet there, it’s just along the corridor, in Room 121.

121 things to do

With each exchange we’ll set you a challenge. We might simply ask you to think about a writing principle – for example, writing one-to-one. If you think this through in relation to your own business writing, where does it take you? Your first exercise is to give directions to the next business meeting you arrange. Explain as clearly and simply as possible without using a map. But make it sound inviting, unmissable.

Jamie to John

Room 101

As you walk down our corridor, you may find yourself thinking that Room 121 has a strangely familiar ring to it. If so, there’s a reason.

It’s a deliberate echo of George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the sinister Room 101 where opponents of Big Brother and the Party are tortured by being confronted with their worst fears. In the case of the main character, Winston Smith, that happens to be a cage of hungry rats strapped to his face.

But why would we want the title of our book to raise such a terrible association? Because Nineteen Eighty-Four is the story of a society controlled by language, and we see certain obvious parallels with the modern business world.

We’re not saying that today’s organisations actively seek to control people through the way they speak, at least not the majority of them. But the default setting for so much of what’s written and said at work in the 21st century is a strange half-language that has very little that’s really human about it.

Orwell’s Newspeak set out to prevent people from being themselves. Modern business language just doesn’t leave room for it. And as writers, that’s something we instinctively react against. Writing has to have personality, otherwise it simply doesn’t work – which, as you’ve already explained, John, is where the one-to-one comes in. We know that Room 121 is infinitely preferable to Room 101.

So our book is about bringing more of ourselves to what we write at work, and the reference to Room 101 is a warning, admittedly rather a dire one, of what might happen if we don’t. You could say we’re the Winston Smiths of business writing (without the rats). Oh, and Big Brother won’t get us in the end.

120 things to do

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” That’s the opening line of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Make your own list of great opening lines in novels. Then look at the opening lines of the last ten business communications you’ve received. Think about how you might improve them.