Reading between the lines of Berkshire Hathaway’s 2015 shareholder letter

Warren Buffett


On Saturday, Warren Buffett released his much anticipated 2015 letter to Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders. After the release, Fortune noted with some surprise that, despite the market’s rocky year and Buffett’s history of offering reassuring communication in such times, the CEO remained “silent on stocks” in this year’s letter.

We wondered whether, despite the lack of direct words of comfort, that reassurance was implicit in the language Buffett used in this year’s letter. We used our proprietary communication analytics platform to analyze the last 15 annual shareholder letters from Berkshire Hathaway, in order to find out how Buffett’s linguistic signals of confidence and optimism have changed in recent years.

Compared to previous election years, this letter displayed higher levels of confidence and optimism – Buffett’s language was 33.4% more optimistic and 7.6% more confident this year vs. previous election years.

In our analytics, confident language represents the degree to which the author appears to believe in his message. This may be regarding past events as well as future ones. Optimistic language is focused solely on the future.



At one point, Mr. Buffett even outlines the negative sentiment that can come with an election year and calls it “dead wrong.”

“It’s an election year, and candidates can’t stop speaking about our country’s problems (which, of course, only they can solve). As a result of this negative drumbeat, many Americans now believe that their children will not live as well as they themselves do. That view is dead wrong: The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.”

Although Buffett may not have used the “soothing words about stocks” that Fortune was hoping for, this was one of his most optimistic letters to date. Using our own optimistic language, let’s hope that the Sage of Omaha, known for investing in value stocks, is correct in his analytical outlook for America’s values.

Read more on communication analytics and financial communication measurement from Quantified Communications.

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