As a business writer, Chris Roush often found himself with questions about the financial industry, but no one in journalism to answer them.
“I would go outside of the industry, to an accountant or lawyer,” Roush said. “They would answer it, but they wouldn’t answer it from the perspective of a business journalist.”
Last summer, Roush — who teaches at the University of North Carolina — started putting together a reference tool for both business journalists and journalists who find their coverage expanding as the news industry shrinks.
The result is “The Financial Writer’s Stylebook,” a guide with definitions for 1,100 terms and a section specific to legal issues related to business journalism, such as public records and attending a company’s public meetings. The book is available from the publisher, Marion Street Press.
Bill Cloud, an associate professor at UNC and a long-time American Copy Editors Society member, co-wrote the guide with Roush, focusing on the book from a copy editor’s standpoint. He suggested adding a rating system for words, something to help editors decide when a term should be defined.
“Each term is followed by a parentheses with dollar signs,” Cloud said. “The more dollar signs, the more publications a term should be defined in. We were trying to reflect the expertise of the readership.”
Roush and Cloud consulted several prominent business journalists — including Allan Sloan of Fortune — as they assembled the guide, but also sought the input of less experienced writers.
“I gave it to my students in a business journalism class,” Roush said. “It was very helpful. Somebody who’s new to business journalism looks at things a whole lot differently than someone who’s been a business journalist for 15 or 20 years.”
On Jan. 1, the guide also will have a companion website — fiwords.com — to which editors and writers can subscribe. The website will allow Roush and Cloud to expand definitions and try out new sections, such as those for specific industries.
Roush and Cloud say it is too early to tell how the book is doing, but the feedback they had gotten is positive.
“The book was first rolled out at the fall conference for the Society of American Business Writers and Editors,” Roush said. “The response there was pretty good; the publisher sold 2,000 20 copies.” (Editor’s note: the number of books sold at the conference was incorrect in the original version.)
Cloud said he hopes that, as the book becomes more widely available, all writers and editors will find the guide to be a helpful, quick reference.
“There are fewer dedicated business copy editors,” he said. “The confidence level it gives, whether to define something or not — I think that’s important.”
Learn more about the stylebook at The Editor’s Desk blog, where ACES Executive Committee member Andy Bechtel did a Q&A with author Chris Roush .
ACES members interested in ordering “The Financial Writer’s Stylebook” can receive a 10 percent discount — and help ACES — by ordering from the Marion Street Press website through this link. Marion Street Press will donate 10 percent of sales through that link to ACES. (Disclosure: the stylebook authors are colleagues of a member of the ACES Executive Committee.)