This paper applies DICTION computer-assisted text analysis software to evaluate the tone of research ‘Environment’ submissions by Business and Management Studies schools in the UK’s 2014 Research Evaluation Framework. We find that submissions contain distinctive differences in semantic tone between high-ranked and low-ranked universities, particularly in terms of DICTION’s master variable, ACTIVITY. The language of high-ranked institutions has a tone of low ACTIVITY, whereas the language of low-ranked institutions has a tone of high ACTIVITY. More adjectives are used than expected: by high-ranked universities to bolster strong public reputations; and by low-ranked universities to atone for weaknesses. High-ranked universities are advantaged because they are more likely to be represented on assessing panels and be better-attuned to reader expectations. The results suggest that low-ranked universities could have achieved higher scores by reflecting on particular areas of word choice and the potential effects of those choices on assessors.