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Listings Key

Here is a typical entry for this stylebook:

$$buyback (n.), buy back (v.) The repurchasing of shares by a company to decrease its number of shares outstanding. A company will buy back those shares. Just because a company announces a buyback plan doesn't mean that the shares will actually be repurchased. Some companies will announce a buyback plan to support its stock price, but not actually repurchase the shares. Also, a company may buy back its stock to inflate its earnings per share number. Earnings per share is net income available for common stock divided by total number of shares outstanding. With fewer shares outstanding, the EPS number may rise. The term share repurchase is also acceptable.

The bold word or words at the beginning of an entry illustrate the accepted usage. An acceptable abbreviation of the word or phrase might be included at the end of an entry. Unacceptable abbreviations are also mentioned when necessary.

If the part of speech is necessary to distinguish usage, it will be indicated in parentheses after the word.

The dollar signs in parentheses after the entry are used to provide a guideline on when the word or term should be defined in business journalism. See p. 16 for the stylebook's rating system.

Italicized words in an entry show how the term can be used in writing or show similar acceptable terms.

Bold words in an entry can refer to another entry in the stylebook or to a related term.

Every attempt will be made to define the entry and provide an explanation of what it means in the business world.

In some cases, an entry might provide tips on how to use it in reporting or writing. For example:

earnings story guidelines: Nearly every business journalist at some time will write a story about a public company's earnings. Some will even write a story about a private company's results. The following guidelines are important to consider in such stories:

  • When calculating the earnings growth or decline, focus on the net income or net loss, not the earnings per share. Companies can manipulate their earnings per share growth by decreasing the number of shares outstanding through share repurchase programs.
  • Leads need to emphasize why a company's earnings rose or fell during the quarter. Don't just tell the reader that the earnings rose or fell by a certain percentage. They'll want to know the reason.
  • Context, context, context. If a company's earnings have fallen after quarters of increases, then you'll need to tell the reader the last quarter in which earnings fell. Was there a loss in the quarter? Then tell the reader when the last quarterly loss occurred. Net income rose 49 percent? When was the last quarter that profits rose faster?
  • Listen to the conference call. Sometimes, the story is not the press release with the numbers, but what the executives say to the analysts and investors later in the day. One telltale sign is to watch how the stock price reacts while you're listening to the call. If the price begins to move up or down dramatically, then something newsworthy was said.
  • Compare a company's quarterly earnings with the same quarter from the previous year, not the previous quarter. Many businesses are cyclical, making the better comparison the same time a year ago. You can't compare, for example, Coke's second-quarter earnings with the first quarter because it's hotter in the second quarter and more people are thirsty.
  • When writing about earnings, focus on the most-recent earnings first before mentioning the same quarter a year earlier. For example, write Earnings rose 25 percent to $4.5 billion from $3.6 billion in the same time period a year ago, not Earnings rose 25 percent from $3.6 billion in the time period a year ago to $4.5 billion.
  • Whom are you going to quote? Increasingly, investors in the stock are being quoted in stories about the earnings, not buy-side analysts. While both have a bias, the investors have less of a conflict of interest.

This style guide is not intended to be the business reporter's sole reference when it comes to style. It should be used in conjunction with another stylebook, such as the latest edition of the Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual. This stylebook, however, is intended to fill in the many gaps for business journalists when it comes to other reference materials, which historically have downplayed or ignored the special needs required to report and write business news.

If you cannot find an entry in this stylebook, please refer to the AP stylebook or the Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language. If you are still not satisfied, or don't have an answer to your style question, please drop us a line and we will consider adding an entry in a following edition.