«Return to Blog List When in Doubt, Look it Up


A few years back I worked with another writer on a series of customer success stories. It became apparent that she didn’t know the difference between the business terms “revenue” and “profit.”

I had taken for granted the fact that I knew and understood terms like this, from experience as a reporter for a city business journal.

Why is this so important to customer stories?

Including details about return on investment (ROI) makes a story compelling to buyers. Often that requires writers or marketers to talk about, or at least understand, such business terms.

I may know about revenue and profit, but in the course of writing case studies, I do encounter industry terms or acronyms I don’t know.

When in doubt, look it up. I frequently refer to several resources to support my writing:



Yahoo Small Business Dictionary




If you’re writing for a specialized industry, find out if there are online dictionaries just for those fields. My own work has required me to turn to civil engineering, and oil and gas dictionaries.

Have any favorite resources to share?

P.S., Revenue = amount generated from sale of goods or services. Profit = the surplus remaining after total costs are deducted from total revenue.

3 Responses to When in Doubt, Look it Up

  1. Steve Kayser says:

    Hey Casey! Why didn’t you tell me you had a new blog? And what’s your Twitter name. I’m on Twitter too. @stevekayser – have my new blog up as well… http://www.writingriffs.com – when does the book come out?

  2. Great point, and highlights the danger of assuming you know what a technical term means just because it’s a “common” word like revenue or profit.
    Here’s a more business-geek definition:
    Operating Revenue: gross sales from the company’s primary business (eg. selling widgets)
    Gross Revenue: That plus any ancilliary revenue (interest income, licensing fees, etc).
    Similarly, Operating Profit is the profit from the primary operations (operating revenue minus cost of goods sold).
    Net profit: Gross Revenue minus all costs.

  3. Michael,
    Thanks for the more advanced definitions. Very helpful!