Media Moves

Testy Biz Copy Editor: Bitcoin stories still need a nut graf

June 1, 2017

Posted by Phillip Blanchard

Testy Copy EditorsBitcoin is a digital token that can be sent electronically from one user to another, anywhere in the world. (New York Times)

For years, Testy Copy Editors has been looking for a nut graf that explains bitcoin, because general-interest readers haven’t a clue to what it is.

This otherwise helpful explainer doesn’t have one. As far as we know, no one has ever written one.

For example, Reuters tried in 2013: “Bitcoin, which is not managed by any one company or government, is a relatively new phenomenon that exists through an open-source software program. Users can buy Bitcoin through exchanges that convert real money into the virtual currency.”

That doesn’t do it. We’ve tried ourselves, to no avail.

Yes, we have a prize for someone who can do it. The author of this column is the sole judge. Entries to

Over the fold

Coherent reported its fiscal second-quarter earnings results after close of trading on Tuesday. With Rofin now contributing fully to its revenue stream, Coherent boasted a more than twofold increase in revenue for fiscal Q2, to $422.8 million. (The Motley Fool)

There is great confusion over the “-fold” construction. Depending on whom you ask, “twofold,” for example, would mean twice as much or three times as much. Merriam-Webster is of no help: “being twice as great or as many.”

There’s quite a difference between “twice as great” and “twice as many. It’s the difference between a 100 percent increase and a 200 percent increase. This is especially important in financial stories.

(Some disagree with this distinction, which makes it more important to use real numbers. How about percentages, or, more helpful, the raw numbers?

It also doesn’t help that The Motley Fool didn’t bother to provide the second-quarter revenue from the previous year, if in fact the increase was “year over year.” It would have added some clarity.

Don’t use “-fold.”


Whole Foods spokeswoman Janette Rizk said the company is working to open 365 stores in three other locations in Southern California: North Hollywood, Long Beach and Upland. (Los Angeles Times)

Three hundred sixty-five stores? The story is about Whole Foods’ new “value-concept” stores, whatever that means. What the writer meant was “the company is working to open three more of the stores in Southern California, in North Hollywood, Long Beach and Upland.” Writing “365 stores” in this context can mislead the reader, if only for moment, into thinking Whole Foods is planning a really big expansion.

Granted, this is a small point, but small points are what copy editors are supposed to clarify. Where was the copy editor?

Empty quote of the week

“Whether our customers are on leisure or business travel, United is making travel to Singapore easier and even more convenient than ever before and customers arriving to Los Angeles will have multiple opportunities to connect to hundreds of United destinations in the U.S., Canada and Latin America,” United’s Senior Vice President of U.S. Sales Dave Hilfman said in a news release. (Fortune)

Phillip Blanchard is a former business editor at the Washington Post. Previously he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times and newspapers in upstate New York. He is founder of Testy Copy Editors. Email:

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