The book that changed the way we write by John Simmons

By Guest Contributor John Simmons

Author of We, Me, Them & It, John Simmons, explains how his book changed the way we write.

It’s a big claim. And generally I discourage big claims, they’re hard to justify.

But in this case, I seem to have the written evidence. With the republication of We, me, them & it approaching, for its 21st-anniversary  edition, I contacted people who might have read the book when it first came out. The answers I received were heartwarming, humbling, surprising. Here are just a few:

My perspective on business writing was transformed by this book. It remains a book to inspire.” – Sophie Devonshire, Global CEO, The Marketing Society

I don’t think a finer book has been written on the power of words to change your business.” – Dan Germain, who wrote the words for Innocent, now at Google

A seminal and hugely stimulating book.” – Rita Clifton, global branding expert

We, me, them & it is the only book I recommend. I remember reading it for the first time and feeling liberated.” – Larry Vincent, leading US brand consultant

I could go on. There are many more. But the important thing is to ask, is it still relevant today? Advertising legend Will Awdry replies: “Twenty years on, this book is more seductive – and necessary – than ever.

Why? It’s the essential question to ask, at the core of my own practice in writing and branding. I have to answer by saying, first, that the book achieved a lot and helped to change the way business uses words. As Andy Milligan, founder of Caffeine, put it: “Writing human is now hard-wired into business and public life.

But, of course, that is never enough. You want to change things, and you want to make sure that things keep changing. There is much more to be done.

That’s why I’m pleased the book is being republished. Its lessons – words matter, they have emotive power, we should use them well – are not fixed in another age, like flies in amber. They are for now and we all need to keep challenging the words around us now, the words we come across daily, the words that can affect both business performance and social wellbeing.

When I first wrote this book, phrases such as ‘fake news’ were not trumpeted to deflect attention from the truth. Our political discourse was not so fractured by partisan ideology. Social media did not exist. For these, and many other reasons, the book still has a powerful relevance. The context of the time changes but the need for human connection remains as strong as ever.

In the spirit of this post, I’ll leave the last words to someone else. Rob Williams, award-winning screenwriter and creative director of Penguin, when he first read the book, says this: “It’s about more than improving language to make business better. It’s about improving communication to make us better humans. And that improves everything.

You can now pre-order the 21st-anniversary edition of We, me, them & it on Amazon.


John Simmons is a leading writer in the world of brands, often cited as ‘the inventor of tone-of-voice as a branding discipline’. The book that set out his philosophy is now being republished by LID in a new edition, 21 years after its first publication. It’s become a cult book since first publication, as relevant today as ever. John went on to found two influential organisations for writers – 26 and Dark Angels – that continue to champion more creative writing for business. He’s the author of many books on brands and writing, as well as a novelist and poet.