On the money – Vol. 33, No. 8: Currencies

On the money

The stylebook is being updated to make our descriptions of currency values clearer for U.S. readers. Currently, we often express a currency value in a foreign currency, and put the U.S. conversion abruptly in parentheses. But as Editor in Chief Matt Murray says, to be clearer for U.S. readers, we should strive to use U.S. dollars as much as possible, and guide the reader better about the conversions. So, under the new guidelines:

1) Use the phrase “equivalent to” more often, rather than just a currency figure in parentheses. So: a loss of 570 million yen, equivalent to $4.7 million. (In subsequent references to the yen, use the yen symbol, or do so on first reference in markets articles: ¥570 million.)
2) Use dollar figures always in headlines, even if the dollar figure is a conversion from the local currency that is referenced in the article.
3) Put the dollar figure first in any article involving a U.S. entity. So this might change some practices involving an overseas unit of a U.S. company, where in the past we might have focused first on the foreign currency. The unit posted a gain of $7.54 billion, reported as 8.29 billion euros. (Again, in a markets article, we can use the symbol right off the bat: reported as €8.29 billion).

The updated stylebook:

currencies

Always use dollars in headlines, even if the dollar figure is a conversion from a foreign currency that is referenced first in the article. Use the phrase “equivalent to” on first use of a conversion from a foreign currency, rather than just a currency figure in parentheses. So: a loss of 570 million yen, equivalent to $4.7 million. (In subsequent references to the yen, or in all references in markets articles, the symbol can be used instead of the word; for example, ¥570 million, or for euros, €4.5 million). But in any reference where a U.S. company is involved, give currency values in U.S. dollars first, even if the transaction involves non-U.S. currency (a change from past practice, as of September 2020). Thus, if a non-U.S. currency needs to be noted, as in a merger, earnings or stock story that isn’t in U.S. dollars, continue to give a U.S. value first, and take note of the local currency second, using a phrase such as reported as to make clear that the primary figure was the local currency. The company’s German unit had a loss of $4.6 million (reported as 3.9 million euros). 

In all news articles that involve a currency conversion, after providing the conversion in the first reference, generally use just the first currency being cited from then on. However, to help readers with the math, provide another conversion later in stories in cases where the numbers range widely, from millions to billions, or where stock prices introduce cents or pence, for example. In any borderline cases, provide the conversions to help the reader.

In the cases of Canadian, Australian or Hong Kong dollars, make that clear by spelling out the non-U.S. country on the initial reference: The bid was $20 (reported as 45 Australian dollars) for the shares. In subsequent references, abbreviate the non-U.S. currency reference: The new price was $20 (A$45). Or C$25 or HK$25.

For the conversion, use a foreign-exchange ratio taken from the Exchange Rates table in the Journal on the day the article is being prepared.

For cryptocurrencies, keep the names lowercase: bitcoin, libra, kin, ethereum, litecoin. But Bitcoin Cash to avoid confusion.

Also, Ethereum and ether. We uppercase Ethereum when referring to the platform/network and ether when referring to the currency used on the platform.

EXCEPTIONS: In Enterprise and other feature articles, use just the dollar equivalents when referring to such things as the costs of goods and services in other countries. The foreign-currency figures are a distraction in contexts other than corporate financial news.

Use the symbols for the dollar, the pound, the euro and the yen. Northern Ireland’s currency is the British pound.

In Newswires copy, because the symbols aren’t available in the publishing system, write out the currency name on first reference, followed by the dollar equivalent in parentheses. In subsequent references, use the Swift code before the figure.

And while we are at it, some conversion tips:

1) The exchange-rate chart can be bookmarked and always reflects the latest in the last print edition:
https://www.wsj.com/market-data/currencies/exchangerates

2) Also, there is a conversion tool in Slack that draws from the same exchange-rate chart in the current day’s paper. From any Slack channel, type /convert followed by the amount and the currency code. The request and response are only visible to you. For example, you can type /convert 1 gbp to convert one British pound. Or: /convert 1.26 million eur to convert 1,260,000 euro.

Notes on WSJ Noted.

In June, the Journal introduced a new digital magazine for young audiences called WSJ Noted. Young Audiences editor Dory Carr-Harris offers guidance on the proper style for this new publication:

The publication should be referred to as WSJ Noted. Technically, the styling is “WSJ Noted.” but the period can be left off when using “WSJ Noted” in a sentence so as not to increase grammatical confusion. On second reference, when in the body of a story, we can refer to the brand more colloquially as Noted.

Nuts to this

The “nut graf” is a Journal tradition, the high-up paragraph that former WSJ editor and writer Ken Wells once described as “a paragraph that says what this whole story is about and why you should read it.” But we often fall back on the “shows that…” phrasing that makes us sound like parodies of ourselves—the familiar wording of The [INSERT TOPIC]  shows that….

A good nut graf is a helpful marker; too often our nut grafs amount to an interruption that simply restates what has been said, more ponderously. Matt says it is a habit that doesn’t make for enjoyable reading. He says, “We have expertise. Instead of saying in a nut graf, ‘The merger shows how the pandemic has reshaped priorities for pie makers and cake makers,’ just say, ‘The pandemic has reshaped priorities for pie and cake makers.’ The first words are wholly superfluous.”

Rulings & reminders

● When introducing quotes that are full sentences, be sure to capitalize the first word of the quote. We misfire on this often. So: The analyst, showing optimism, said, “The market will be fine.” 
● Bingeing is our spelling, following Webster’s, for the progressive tense of binge, not binging.
● Simply put: We surely overuse simply in articles. Another overused word lately is roiled.
● 5K, not 5k, has been entered in the stylebook, as in a 5K race. And, of course, 10K not 10k. But for the regulatory filing, it remains 10-K with a hyphen.
● 1stdibs is the spelling for the online marketplace, not 1stDibs or 1st Dibs.
● Don’t equate sterilizing with disinfecting (which is a lesser level of cleaning). We had a correction on a photo caption that referred to Lysol spray being used to sterilize a door. In fact, it was being used to disinfect the door.
● We lowercase the wine-expert title of master sommelier, whether before a name or not. We have been inconsistent over the years, but our style is to lowercase occupational titles.

Heads above the rest

“For Alone Time, Head to the Office / Few lonely workers return, but you can blast Van Halen,” by Tammy Audi.
● “Campari’s New Growth Recipe Is Bittersweet,” by Carol Ryan.
● “Pandemic Remodels Home Depot,” by Tammy Audi.
● “Coronavirus Chased Off Tourists—Lots of Locals Don’t Want Them Ever Flocking Back,” by Alyssa Betts.
● “Brooks Brothers, From Buttoned Up to Stripped Down,” by Beckey Bright.

Heads that make you go ‘hmmm’

● “Belarus Says President Is Re-elected.” Re-Elected. In a headline word, generally uppercase after a hyphen.
● “Tech Etiquette Dos and Don’ts.” Do’s and Don’ts. (There is no perfect punctuation for this phrase, but we do use the apostrophe in Do’s.)

Notifications above the rest

Here are some of the top mobile push alerts, both on WSJ’s native app and via Apple News. Our aim is to highlight the storytelling our editors do on locked screens, typically in 140 characters or fewer.

● An 8-year-old girl named Hermione was evacuated from Wuhan. Six months later, back in America, she has the virus. So does her father. And her grandparents.
● Is San Francisco over? Tech workers are leaving, rents are falling and the Bay Area may never be the same.
● When teens started to mock a company, the CEO took action. He joined them.
● Jack Eccles didn’t want to leave his wife alone in a locked-down nursing home. So he moved in. “She took care of me for 70 years, and now it’s my turn.”
● In 1951, a Black woman’s cancer cells were taken without consent—and proved invaluable. Now, two groups that profited are giving back.

Farther/further

Are there any words that are harder to choose between? This was reinforced when we had an online headline saying that Pennsylvania voters have moved Farther Apart, but the print headline spelled it Further Apart.

Both spellings are defensible, but we will bless farther apart, the choice whether for a physical distance or a metaphorical one. In this case, the “apart” further emphasizes an image of distancing. In the past, many of us have been taught to reserve farther strictly for physical distances, and further for matters of degree. That is still a good rule as a starting point, but metaphorical references to distance can also be farther. In any case, as the stylebook notes, the distinction between the words has been fading.

At the risk of further muddying the waters, the idiom further from the truth should still be spelled that way since it is so ingrained.

Nonplussed
Our article read, “Republicans were publicly nonplused about the delays, saying they would still be able to pass a bill before lawmakers leave Washington for a recess after the end of the first week of August.”

In addition to the spelling which should be nonplussed, following Webster’s 5th, the word traditionally means perplexed—the opposite of what we meant to say. Perhaps the “non” makes people think nonplussed is a word meaning “not upset.”

So some grammar geeks advise that writers should just avoid this misunderstood word, since its meaning is so fuzzy now. In this article, unfazed would have been fine. (And don’t spell it unphased, unless it is about “Star Trek.”)

Quiz (find the flubs)

1. The insertion of a SWAT team like this did not diffuse the situation—it exacerbated it.
2. “Anybody in a leadership position has no need to look over their shoulder to find out the location of Karen Bass,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D., Mo.). “Because she does not have the MacBethian ambition that damages or destroys many aspiring politicians.”
3. The hackers all met in an online forum called OGUsers, where access to a variety of gaming, social media and other types of accounts are bought and sold, investigators say.
4. The case shone a light on the security practices of a company that is facing pressure from many fronts.
5. In 1979, at age 55, Mr. Redstone’s brilliant career was nearly cut short.
6. Online betting in the U.S. is in the first chapter—maybe even just the forword—in terms of the growth story.
7. As the first female head of the NSF, from 1998 to 2004, her comments at meetings were often ignored.
8. “I can’t go in to work, so I recreated it,” Ms. Murphy said.
9. Both defects together led Boeing to determine the eight jets didn’t meet structural-soundness “requirements for safe flight and landing,” according to the FAA memo.
10. The suspect was transported to a hospital and expected to survive.

Answers

1. Defuse, not diffuse. The latter means to scatter.
2. Toil and trouble: Macbeth has a lowercase “b,” so Macbethian.
3. The access is bought and sold, not are.
4. The past tense of shine is shined when the verb has an object: shined a light.
5. It wasn’t his career that was 55, so it should be stated: In 1975, when he was 55, Mr. Redstone’s career….
6. Books have forewords, not forwords.
7. A dangler (or more accurately, as S&S founding editor Paul Martin would point out, a disjointed appositive). Her comments weren’t in charge of the foundation; she was.
8. Re-created with a hyphen, when we mean to create again. (Recreate means to play.)
9. Because both encompasses togetherness, avoid the redundancy by using The two instead at the start of the sentence.
10. We like tight writing, but unless the suspect told us that in the ambulance, we needed a was before expected.

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