Rhetorical impression management in the letter to shareholders and institutional setting

A metadiscourse perspective

Walter Aerts, Beibei Yan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    Abstract

    Purpose
    Using composite style measures of the letter to shareholders, we elaborate dominant rhetorical profiles and qualify them from an impression management perspective. In addition, we examine how institutional differences affect rhetorical profiles by comparing intensity and contingencies of rhetorical profiles of UK and US companies.

    Design/methodology/approach
    We use automated text analysis to capture linguistic style characteristics of a panel of UK and US companies and employ factor analysis to determine rhetorical profiles. Next, we investigate company-level and country-level determinants of a company’s rhetorical stance.

    Findings
    We document three prominent rhetorical profiles: (1) an emphatic acclaiming stance, (2) a cautious plausibility-based framing position, and (3) a logic-based rationalizing orientation. The profiles represent distinct self-presentational logics and have different readability effects. Rhetorical impression management is stronger in US companies, but higher expected scrutiny in the US institutional environment affects sensitivity of rhetorical postures to message credibility and litigation risk, while marginally increasing the less litigation-sensitive defensive framing style in US letters.

    Originality/value
    We develop replicable archival-based measures of prominent rhetorical impression management traits of the shareholder letter, based on composite style features. We argue that they are qualitatively different from content-based impression management proxies. We investigate their institutional and organizational relevance by examining how company features and country-level differences affect incentives and constraints for style-based rhetorical impression management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-30
    JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
    Volume30
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Fingerprint

    Impression management
    Shareholders
    Rhetoric
    Logic
    Text analysis
    Factor analysis
    Litigation
    Contingency
    Incentives
    Readability
    Credibility
    Institutional environment
    Design methodology
    Litigation risk
    Institutional differences

    Cite this

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    title = "Rhetorical impression management in the letter to shareholders and institutional setting: A metadiscourse perspective",
    abstract = "PurposeUsing composite style measures of the letter to shareholders, we elaborate dominant rhetorical profiles and qualify them from an impression management perspective. In addition, we examine how institutional differences affect rhetorical profiles by comparing intensity and contingencies of rhetorical profiles of UK and US companies.Design/methodology/approachWe use automated text analysis to capture linguistic style characteristics of a panel of UK and US companies and employ factor analysis to determine rhetorical profiles. Next, we investigate company-level and country-level determinants of a company’s rhetorical stance.FindingsWe document three prominent rhetorical profiles: (1) an emphatic acclaiming stance, (2) a cautious plausibility-based framing position, and (3) a logic-based rationalizing orientation. The profiles represent distinct self-presentational logics and have different readability effects. Rhetorical impression management is stronger in US companies, but higher expected scrutiny in the US institutional environment affects sensitivity of rhetorical postures to message credibility and litigation risk, while marginally increasing the less litigation-sensitive defensive framing style in US letters.Originality/valueWe develop replicable archival-based measures of prominent rhetorical impression management traits of the shareholder letter, based on composite style features. We argue that they are qualitatively different from content-based impression management proxies. We investigate their institutional and organizational relevance by examining how company features and country-level differences affect incentives and constraints for style-based rhetorical impression management.",
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    Rhetorical impression management in the letter to shareholders and institutional setting : A metadiscourse perspective. / Aerts, Walter; Yan, Beibei.

    In: Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2017, p. 1-30.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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    AB - PurposeUsing composite style measures of the letter to shareholders, we elaborate dominant rhetorical profiles and qualify them from an impression management perspective. In addition, we examine how institutional differences affect rhetorical profiles by comparing intensity and contingencies of rhetorical profiles of UK and US companies.Design/methodology/approachWe use automated text analysis to capture linguistic style characteristics of a panel of UK and US companies and employ factor analysis to determine rhetorical profiles. Next, we investigate company-level and country-level determinants of a company’s rhetorical stance.FindingsWe document three prominent rhetorical profiles: (1) an emphatic acclaiming stance, (2) a cautious plausibility-based framing position, and (3) a logic-based rationalizing orientation. The profiles represent distinct self-presentational logics and have different readability effects. Rhetorical impression management is stronger in US companies, but higher expected scrutiny in the US institutional environment affects sensitivity of rhetorical postures to message credibility and litigation risk, while marginally increasing the less litigation-sensitive defensive framing style in US letters.Originality/valueWe develop replicable archival-based measures of prominent rhetorical impression management traits of the shareholder letter, based on composite style features. We argue that they are qualitatively different from content-based impression management proxies. We investigate their institutional and organizational relevance by examining how company features and country-level differences affect incentives and constraints for style-based rhetorical impression management.

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