Modes of persuasion in corporate annual reports: interplay of ethos, logos and pathos

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Year of publication 2019
Type Article in Proceedings
Conference Dimensions of institutional communicative space
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Education

Keywords annual report; business; corpus; credibility; expertise; persuasion; persuasive force; persuasive potential; positive lexis
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Description Annual reports of companies and institutions represent a specific type of persuasive institutional discourse, characterised by its emphasis on conveying credible, reliable, well-structured, objective and accurate information to an organisation´s stakeholders. It is obvious that such inherently persuasive texts employ the Aristotelian rhetorical appeals of ethos and logos, whereas the third classical mode of persuasion, pathos, is not deemed to play an important role in professional discourse. This contribution claims that some genres of corporate annual reports, namely the relatively short letters from executives (Letter from a CEO, Chair´s Message, Chairman´s Statement, Letter from the President, Letter to Shareholders, etc.) contain an implicit or explicit emotional appeal, expression of beliefs and an attempt to arouse sympathy, which are constitutive components of pathos. Moreover, the use of pathos is not limited to the genre of letters from executives; annual reports also include success stories, vision statements, interviews with executives, employees, customers and clients, positive and optimistic headings, quotes and slogans, as well as attractive pictures and graphic layout. The aim of the paper is to demonstrate that effective persuasion in this specialised discourse is based on achieving balance between provision of reliable and systematically organised facts, communicating credentials, achievements and trustworthiness, and appeal to readers´ emotions. It looks into the characteristic linguistic correlates of all three modes of persuasion and their persuasive potential. The research was carried out on the subcorpus of English business documents, incorporated in the Corpus of English and Czech Specialised Discourses (CECSD) compiled at Masaryk University in 2017.
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