The Language of Failure: The Use of Accounts in Financial Reports

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The natural language that accompanies the accounting language in financial reports is not only a more or less accurate representation of the company but also, the authors argue, a response to explicit as well as implicit external demands, expectations, and accusations. Drawing on the notion of accounts (i.e., statements or responses that neutralize critique of not meeting expectations), the authors analyze the natural language in financial reports. In analyzing financial reports with the use of account theory, both individual actions and structurally anchored financial report discourse are approached. The theory of accounts helps the authors discern the fine-grained anatomy of financial reports by means of which impressions are managed, legitimacy is upheld, and the dialogue between companies and their public is maintained. The analysis demonstrates the presence of five types of accounts in the financial reports: excuse, justification, refocusing, concession, and mystification. Financial reporting is a legally and culturally regulated genre of business communication that partakes in the ongoing conversation between a company and its public. Understanding the role of accounts is needed to enhance the genre awareness and reader competence among the readers of financial reports.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalInternational Journal of Business Communication
Issue number 1
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

Free keywords

  • accounts
  • discourse
  • failure
  • financial reports
  • performativity


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