Tone and the Accounting Narrative
Tone is a means by which narratives may be imbued with a desired connotation or affect through word choice. Like other elements of style, tone may be deployed to aid the dissemination of incrementally useful information or used to strategically influence perceptions. Much literature in accounting considers tone as a uni-dimensional construct. This exploratory study seeks to demonstrate that verbal tone is considerably more nuanced in nature. Using multi-year sample of listed companies, we examine dimensions of tone across multiple document types within the annual report and two components of CSR reports issued separately from the annual report. We first consider how dimensions of tone vary across different types of corporate narrative. Next, we determine whether dimensions of tone are associated with another important element of style, readability. Last, we consider the determinants of tone, including the possibility that tone may be used in impression management. The paper makes several important contributions to practice and theory.