My love of speechwriting is very much connected to my love of learning languages. I studied French, German, Latin and Russian at school. An indispensable tool for anyone learning a language is a vocabulary book.

I had narrow green exercise books in which I collected words with their definitions, with some trite quotations copied in the back.

Then in 2007 I realised that relying on creative inspiration was not a sensible way to write speeches. By categorising my best one-liners, jokes and quotations under headings, I could mechanise the process. By noting down good lines whenever I came across them, and then drawing on them for reference and creative stimulation, I could provide a more reliable and professional service.

I knew about John Julius Norwich’s annual Christmas Crackers from when I heard him on the radio. I bought a couple of anthologies and found them funny. He was also a linguist, so I could enjoy his French poems and other foreign extracts.

Earlier this year I was casting around for a way to create my own, when I discovered that Viscount Norwich had died. I bought a copy of his last annual collection and I calculated that his format had probably been optimised over the 49 years he had produced them, so I was unlikely to be able to improve on it.

Of course, JJN was an aristocrat, TV personality and literary lion. His Christmas list probably had several hundred people on it, I have a couple of dozen. Still, I had the depth of material to produce somemething and, as the founder of the European Speechwriter Network, I have 600 subscribers I can share the joy of commonplacing with.

Commonplacing is an essential discipline for someone who wants to be at the top of the speechwriting trade.

I have published 100 copies of A Christmas Stocking. They’re slim volumes with 24 extracts. The cover is an attractive, designed by Briony Hartley from Goldust.

It makes an unusual present for a speechwriter, or anyone who has political or literary tastes.

You can buy them on Amazon, but the order will still come to me.

Better to contact me and I will send you one copy for £8.50 inc p&p, or as a special deal, so you can give them to multiple friends, three copies for £20 inc p&p. Payment can be made by PayPal or invoice.

European prices are €12 inc p&p, or as a special deal, three copies for €25. Payment can be made by invoice.


A lovely piece of work, beautifully presented and nicely judged. Guy Browning

Here’s a sample

A Christmas Stocking (Sample) by Brian Jenner on Scribd

Send me an email and I’ll sort it out.

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