“Our revenues have been mostly flat, but our profit margin has been shrinking.”

English Lesson: Our revenues have been mostly flat, but our profit margin has been shrinking.

You're presenting your department's financial results in a meeting at work. You tell the group that you're selling the same amount, but keeping less of the money because costs are rising.

Our revenues have been mostly flat, but our profit margin has been shrinking.

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"Revenue" is the money that a company or a person makes from its customers. When you're talking about money, there are several terms that all have different meanings:

  • Revenue is the money that a business gets from sales, or from investments.
  • Income is also money that a company makes. This word is also used to describe the amount of money that an individual person makes.
  • Profit is the amount of money that is left after a company pays for its employees, materials, rent, and other costs.

There are much more technical definitions for each of these terms that accountants and business executives need to learn, but these definitions will work for most people.

You can use either "revenue" as an uncountable noun, or "revenues":

Revenues are pretty good this quarter.

(a number or statistic) is flat

When a statistic or number doesn't change, you can call it "flat". We call it that because it looks flat when the numbers are plotted on a graph.

For example:

Sales are up, but profits are flat.

This phrase sounds professional and businesslike.

profit margin

The "profit margin" for a business is the amount of money that the business keeps after paying its expenses.

For example, a grocery store might buy a box of cookies for $1.00 and sell it for $2.00. In that case, the "profit margin" is 50%.

Here are a few phrases that people use when talking about "profit margins":

Our profit margins are slim.

They have huge profit margins.

You have to have a healthy profit margin.

(something) is shrinking

The word "shrinking" means "getting smaller". We often use this word when talking about numbers and trends:

The American middle class has been shrinking for the last two decades.

A lot of animal species are in danger because their natural habitats are shrinking.

You can also use "shrinking" as an adjective:

It's tough being in a shrinking industry like that.