Approaches to Writing Business Books: The Encyclopedic Approach

In a nutshell: The author presents a comprehensive look at a particular subject, with sub-topics presented individually and usually arranged alphabetically, or via some other logical arrangement.

The Encyclopedic Approach book is a resource for readers already knowledgeable about the topic who may want additional information or explanations. Because of its clear-cut descriptions and logical, easy-to-access layout, readers can look up certain topics to clarify the answers to questions and learn more. It is not designed to be read cover-to-cover.

This approach is put to good use in the book Essential Economics,[1] which consists of a brief opening chapter titled “The Joy of Economics,” followed by an alphabetical list of economic definitions and descriptions spanning 267 pages.

The Encyclopedic Approach is also used in The Economist Guide to Financial Guide To Financial MarketsMarkets: Why They Exist and How They Work.[2] Although not arranged alphabetically, the book is a compilation of definitions and descriptions of one sub-topic after another, as evidenced by the book’s Table of Contents:

Chapter 1 – Why Markets Matter

Chapter 2 – Foreign-Exchange Markets

Chapter 3 – Money Markets

Chapter 4 – Bond Markets

Chapter 5 – Securitization

Chapter 6 – International Fixed-Income Markets

Chapter 7 – Equity Markets

Chapter 8 – Commodities and Futures Markets

Chapter 9 – Options and Derivatives Markets

Books that use The Encyclopedic Approach are reference books designed to sit on readers’ shelves for years and be flipped through as questions arise, as opposed to Topic 101 books, which are designed to be read carefully by novices.

Continue reading entries in the “Approaches to Writing Business Books” blog series.

[1] Matthew Bishop, Profile Books, 2004.

[2] Marc Levinson, Economist Books, 2014.