Former BBC journalist Jules Horne has been in the words business for more than 25 years. After working in Germany and Switzerland as a translator, editor and radio journalist, she returned to the UK in 2000 to write full-time, and set up Texthouse to offer specialist writing and editing services to business.
She’s won several awards for her writing, and regularly collaborates with graphic and web designers in Scotland and around the UK.
Interview with Jules Horne
How did you get into writing for business?
My family is from a business background, and I appreciate the risk and independent spirit that goes with entrepreneurship. The mix of creativity and practicality in business writing really appeals to me.
After a German degree at Oxford, I was a translator for the German government and German ad agencies. I found it frustrating when they wanted slavish fidelity to the original text, rather than lively, authentic copy in engaging English. So I stopped doing translation and wrote original copy instead.
Then I got into broadcasting, and found I enjoyed interviewing people, finding stories and bringing ordinary topics to life. Business writing was a natural fit from then on.
You write in lots of different genres, including plays. What’s the common thread?
A love of language and a passion for communicating with an audience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing an ad, a website or a radio drama – the basic tools are the same: story, metaphor, hooks, tension, character, voice, pattern, rhythm. I’m fascinated by the psychology of engagement.
Writing plays gives you unbeatable experience of seeing a live audience respond moment by moment. You learn so much about what makes a connection, what’s lazy or overwrought – and you never stop learning. Generalist marketers study these things, but they don’t have the privilege of direct experience.
Where does journalism fit into business writing?
It makes you a demon editor! You learn to hit deadlines, and be more flexible with your writing. And it gives you a great eye for a story, of course.
But I think the most important skill journalism gives you is to be a good listener, stand back, and find a clear line through a complex, fast-changing subject. Business can be chaotic, and people are usually too close to the operation to see it clearly and objectively. A journalist can see both viewpoints and create a bridge between a company and its customers.
And, of course, business people aren’t writers – that’s not their expertise. It’s very satisfying when you can give someone words to express what they are passionate about.