The Royal Commission wants banks to be more accountable.
Could changing language change cultures?
Here’s my case … as a poem!
Ode to the Banking Royal Commission
Who’d have thought that how you write
Could lead to such a harsh spotlight;
Banks, to get more gold and glory
Try to write a different story.
You win when we all want to own stuff
(Or lease it, which is good enough),
But there’s something YOU need to own
As Kenneth Hayne and co. have shown.
The price for this can be massive
Break the habit – don’t write passive.
To do this right, to reach the summit,
First tell us: whodunnit?
To say ‘IT WAS DECIDED THAT …’
Leaves a little caveat;
If challenged later on the stand,
You risk a stinging reprimand.
‘It wasn’t me!’ will be your cry,
As barristers all roll their eyes;
But you left it open to conjecture,
So here it comes: a painful lecture.
Active voice could have saved you,
Saying ‘X DECIDED …’ (if you knew),
Would make it clear who did what,
Your case is opened – then it’s shut.
Sometimes passive is okay
(Blanket rules can lead astray),
Saying ‘Gaffes were done’ to a chum
Will stop them feeling like they’re dumb.
Careful, though – don’t form a habit,
Passive voice can breed like rabbits;
Readers start to copy you,
And whoops! Royal Commission Two.
Your culture forms the words you use,
But you know you can always choose
To change it just by the reverse
Say it, OWN it – or things get worse.
Hayne’s ‘culture’ norms say ‘Don’t mislead’,
And culture forms the words we read;
APRA’s on it; it’s right there:
The third letter of the B.E.A.R.
Leave passive voice to the academics
Or risk a re-run epidemic,
‘Passive’ costs are insurmountable
But ‘active voice’ is being accountable.
By Paul Jones
My original poem hit a nerve! Yay. Lots of great feedback, and even some poems in response on LinkedIn. But I need to clarify something:
Ode 2: the Banking Royal Commission
In I chime with yet more rhymes,
It’s time to make things clear;
Not just banks write ‘passive’ crimes,
But all do – far and near.
In case you think I’m on the brink
Of bank-bashing today;
It’s ANY field where not revealed
Is the ‘actor’, okay?
Bankers, bakers, movers, shakers,
Want to look clean-cut;
Not saying who’s the risk taker
Is how they cover butts.
Scholastic style makes me smile,
It’s not so great at work;
When used by all the rank and file
Responsibility they shirk.
It’s quite concerning that more learning
Gives a ‘passive’ bent;
But to drop the ‘doer’ leaves us yearning
A clearer argument.
So to all and sundry, starting Monday,
Try this little trial:
Say WHO did what in all you say,
And go the extra mile.
Like it? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share your comments below.