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By Ahmed Riahi-Belkaoui, professor of accounting, University of Illinois

Published by Quorum Books 175 pages $55.00

Review by Alexander A.H. Bohtling, CPA retired from Deloitte & Touche LLP

As the author of the book points out, accounting is the language of business, and to understand accounting as a language, it is necessary to study its readability and understandability. The Linguistic Shaping of Accounting consists of a preface and four chapters--accounting as a language, linguistic relativity in accounting, sociolinguistic thesis and accounting, and bilingual thesis in accounting. It is written in a way that not only academics versed in linguistics will understand
but also in a way that trained accountants will find fascinating and useful.

The author points out that readability is one of the qualities of information sought by users. The book expounds on this subject in considerable detail. The discussion covers not only financial statements but also letters to stockholders. Further, the author states that corporate jargon should be reduced or eliminated, to be replaced by what the author terms "more readable reports."

To add to the foregoing, the author reports that there is a problem of understandability of pronouncements of standard-setting bodies, mentioning the SEC and the FASB. The author mentions that several studies investigating the readability of accounting messages by various groups of users show either a lack of understandability or a different understandability among users. Linguistic relativity versus alternative explanations is also discussed.

The book makes reference to accounting articles and presents extracts and diagrams on the subjects covered.

In your reviewer's opinion, the subjects presented by the author are well taken. While the accounting language in this country may stand improvement, to this reviewer's mind, it is more readable than the language in many cases used by some other professions, such as medicine and law. Also, it may be well to mention that American accounting and financial reporting systems seem to be followed worldwide. *

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