What is it about?
Purpose – This paper aims to examine and critique the accounting literature’s dominant readability formula, the Flesch formula. Furthermore, the paper sets out to propose refinement and augmentation to the formula with a view to expanding its applicability and relevance to researchers’ attempts at better understanding and critiquing the effectiveness of accounting communications. This aim extends to setting a more robust foundation for informing policymakers’ and practitioners’ interest in implementing more effective communications with their target stakeholders. Design/methodology/approach – The paper offers an historically informed methodological critique of the current articulation and application of the Flesch formula, both generally and in accounting research. This critique forms the basis for developing proposed revisions and supplementary measures to augment Flesch’s coverage. These are presented with sample empirics. Findings – Illustrative examples suggest that it is feasible and desirable to apply a revised formula that reduces Flesch’s misplaced emphasis on word length by respecifying its sentence length variable, a probable cause of low readability. A reader attribute score further enhances the formula by integrating the considerable impact of readers’ attributes on readability and accounting communication effectiveness. Supplementary measures, comprising non-narrative communications dimensions, are introduced as a foundation for further research. Originality/value – The paper provides not only critique but also refinement and augmentation of the much used Flesch readability formula for accounting communications research. It offers a first stage approach to encompassing potentially important communication elements such as readers’ attributes, tables, graphs and headings, to date critiqued as potentially important but left unattended by accounting researchers. This offers the prospect of extending Flesch’s application to contemporary accounting communications issues and questions.
The following have contributed to this page: Rob Gray, Professor James Guthrie, and Professor Lee D Parker
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