Media Moves

Stylebook published for business journalists

October 1, 2010

Andy Bechtel, who writes The Editor’s Desk blog, interviewed UNC-Chapel Hill journalism professor Chris Roush, one of the co-authors of the new stylebook, The Financial Writer’s Stylebook, aimed for helping business journalists do their jobs better.

The book was unveiled Friday at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference in New York.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q. What are some of the common problems you see in business stories and headlines?

A. My biggest pet peeve when reading a business story is seeing a business term or phrase used incorrectly by the reporter and not corrected by the editor. It’s apparent that someone who was interviewed for the story said the term or phrase in the interview, and the reporter thought it sounded important, so they decided to use it. But they don’t know what the term really means. I see this a lot with net income vs. operating income.

Q. The stylebook uses a “rating system” to help writers and editors know when to define business terms for their readers. How did that come about, and how does it work?

A. This was Bill’s idea to help distinguish the book and provide some easy guidance. The Wall Street Journal traditionally defines business terms in its stories even though most of its readers probably know what the term means.

We decided to take that to the next level and provide a ranking, of one dollar sign to five dollar signs, to tell journalists whether the business term needs to be defined in the story. No dollar signs means that it doesn’t need to be defined at all. Five dollar signs means that the term should be defined in all publications, and the ratings goes down to one dollar sign, which means that only general interest publications such as daily newspapers need to define the term.

Read more here.

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