Following the recession of the early nineties, I felt the weight of parental expectation to ‘make the most of your potential’ and choose a proper job.
Unlike their wishes for me, my parents’ careers had veered from law to fruit farming and hypnotherapy meandering back to teaching with several other occupations in between.
Having observed their alternative approach, I agreed with the conventional, responsible, safe path.
I’d enjoyed English and mathematics at school but if the first lacked lucrative certainty, I’d attempt to make the most of my second favourite school subject. So back when the Big 4 Accounting Firms were still the Big 6, I started my accounting career as an auditor.
A team of us would rock up to a client, sit down with the ledgers, review invoices, tick and flick, interview the finance team, talk to management, write our reports and be on our way to the next one. But wait, before you pigeon-hole us into your dull, number-crunching stereotype, it wasn’t all red pens and calculators…
I counted designer toilets at the annual stock take of a premium bathroom manufacturing client before a single privileged bottom sat on them.
I reviewed the impact of downtime incurred at a local power station while they removed machine-clogging dead animals (and sometimes worse) from the household rubbish used to generate electricity.
I saw the inner workings of a famous auction house–you’d know the name if I said it.
I learnt how phone companies make their money from us, the margins charged by recruitment agencies, and the profitability model for car manufacturers.
I understood the thrill of innovation translating into sales when small technology businesses made breakthroughs.
It turned out that accountancy wasn’t really about numbers and auditing wasn’t really about being adept at mathematics. The accountants recorded the story of a business in the language of money. Auditing was about listening to that story and determining how true and fair it was.
Part of our service offering was to report our audit findings back to the Board and Management of our clients. At this stage, certain phrases and a style of ‘voice’ became prevalent:
“It was noted that…”
“The issue was observed by…”
“The results of testing the controls showed that…”
Bland. Formal. Passive.
I always wanted to be a writer and play with words, create stories, spark the imagination and challenge ideas and here I was writing more prolifically than during any of my teenage tinkerings or part time angst-ridden dabblings.
Clients paid us to report on the truthfulness of their business records and they expected additional value. They wanted to know about potential and actual weaknesses in their systems but didn’t want it delivered in an accusatory or finger-pointing way.
We still had to tell them though and the diplomatic way was to be bland and formal. Passive voice in report writing was positively encouraged. When I became a manager and started training up the juniors, I hammered the active voice out of them.
“Don’t be confrontational.”
“This is our client. Remember they pay our bills.”
Passive voice was professional, emotionless and kept things rolling along calmly.
Fast forward to today and here I am, now on a different work journey (thanks parents for leading the way on career changes!), unlearning the passive, formal, grammatically correct, safe way of talking. Twenty-plus years of business habits are hard to break.
I put fresh words on the page each day. They sputter, start to speak, shy away, gain strength then, with revision, flow with energy, breathing life into the topic, singing the benefits, building awareness, calling us to action.
From the careful passive expression of a client’s weaknesses in the past, it is now my pleasure to reveal my clients’ strengths.
I’m Rananda, a Sydney-based writer and editor.
With 25-plus years in corporate life, a financial background, a science education, and a lifetime of writing, I know there is more to starting and growing a loyal following than just the words on your website or saving that draft manuscript in a folder.
I bring comprehensive practical experience to supporting your writing needs.