Military Community & Family Policy
    Thursday January 24, 2019
Office of Military Community Outreach
MC&FP Style Guide

Welcome to the Military Community and Family Policy Style Guide

This online style guide is for those developing content in support of programs within Military Community and Family Policy. The guide is intended to encourage consistency in the look, feel and tone of content. This includes content developed for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications, ePublications, eLearning modules, print products (such as guides or brochures), social media and conference materials. All grammatical guidelines set forth in this document are based on those established by the "Associated Press Style Guide."

All content developed for Military Community and Family Policy must follow the guidance provided in this application to ensure consistency throughout all communication efforts. Requests for deviation from this guide must be submitted to the Office of Military Community Outreach.

Questions or comments concerning the content of this guide should be submitted via our Support link.

Summary of Major Changes

  1. Commas: In a list of three or more items in a series, do not use a comma before the conjunction: I like apples, bananas and chocolate. Use the comma only if it is needed for clarification: I like salami, ham, and peanut butter and jelly.
  2. Do not capitalize the following words: service, military service, service branch, service provider, service member.
  3. Do not capitalize "reserve" when referring to the reserves in general. Do not cap "reservists," either.
  4. Do capitalize "National Guard" or "Guard."
  5. Capitalize "Marine" but not "sailor," "soldier" or "airmen."
  6. For acronyms, do not use parentheses to introduce them, and do not use them at the start of a sentence: Correct: I like the Family Advocacy Program. It is a wonderful program. Incorrect: I like the Family Advocacy Program (FAP). FAP is a wonderful program.
  7. When writing phones numbers, do not use the 1- or parentheses around the area code: 800-342-9647.
  8. Write out all numbers below 10; for 10 and above, use the numerals.
  9. Always capitalize the first word in a bulleted list.

Data Dictionaries

Data dictionaries are available for each program area and share guidelines, preferred language and terms, and relevant glossaries for content developers and editors. Select the program name below to access each data dictionary.

Writing for Military Community and Family Policy

This style guide provides writers with general principles and specific guidance for content developed for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications, eLearning modules, print products such as guides or brochures, and conference materials. These guidelines follow those established by the "American Forces Press Service's Supplement to the Associated Press Style Guide" and the "Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition" dictionary. In addition to general guidance in this portion of the guide, specific guidance is provided alphabetically. You'll find capitalization, spelling, preferred usage and so on, along with many examples. When preparing to write any document, remember that our readers lead busy lives and many other resources and outlets compete for their time. Consider the following writing tips:

Write for your reader. Every piece - whether a news story, blog post or brochure - needs to tell the reader:

  • What's in it for them
  • What you want them to do
  • Why they should read it in the first place
  • Why they should read it NOW
  • Why they should read your piece instead of someone else's

Use some basic techniques. Your readers are busy people seeking information. Use their time wisely.

  • Open with your main point.
  • Stick to one BIG idea.
  • Focus on what your reader needs.
  • Be descriptive, but use short words and short sentences.
  • Spell out action.
  • Keep your lists parallel.

Know your reader. It's the only way to be understood.

  • Who? What is the reader's educational background, age, gender, attitudes? What are the benefits and risk for the reader?
  • When? When will the reader read your message? How much time will they spend on it? When does the reader have to act?
  • Where? Where is the reader in the chain of command? Where do they do their work - in an office, in the field, at home?
  • How? How interested is the reader in the arrival of your message? How will the reader feel about it?
  • Why? Why are you writing? Why should the reader respond?

Abbreviations, Acronyms and Brevity Codes - General Use

Write for your reader. Avoid the alphabet soup so typical of bureaucratic writing. Never use abbreviations for Military Community and Family Policy program names unless otherwise noted in their data dictionaries. For commonly abbreviated organizational names and terms that are not Military Community and Family Policy programs, spell them out on first reference. Thereafter, if a sentence can be written without the associated abbreviation, acronym or brevity code, do not use one. For example: The Exceptional Family Member Program serves military families with special needs. The program ensures that a family member's educational or medical needs are taken into account during the assignment coordination process.

  • Do not begin a sentence with an acronym or abbreviation.
  • When writing a guide or publication that is broken into chapters or sections, spell out the abbreviation, acronym or brevity code on first use within each chapter.
  • When writing content for a website, reintroduce the abbreviation, acronym or brevity on each page of content. If the reader is going to have to click through more than one screen, reintroduce it on each screen.
  • Abbreviations, acronyms and brevity codes disrupt readability. Avoid all use when developing content for a PowerPoint presentation or eLearning module.
  • Write out Department of Defense. Only use "DoD" in social media posts.
  • Do not include abbreviations, acronyms or brevity codes in headers, chapter titles, table of contents, etc.


Capitalization errors and mistakes can be easy to overlook. See the guidelines below to ensure proper use of capitalization rules when writing for Military Community and Family Policy:

  • Do not capitalize "services," "service member" or "service provider."
  • Do not capitalize "military services" or "armed forces."
  • If creating or working on a glossary, only capitalize the first word of the term being defined if it is a proper name:
    child abuse - This refers to any physical injury, sexual maltreatment, emotional maltreatment, deprivation of necessities, lack of supervision or combinations of these actions or omissions toward a child by an individual responsible for the child's welfare.
  • Always capitalize the names of the U.S. military services: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, Army Reserves, Marine Corps Reserves and Navy Reserves. Do not capitalize "reserves."
  • Do not capitalize "active duty."
  • Use lowercase for the following terms: government, state, federal, nation, national, and armed forces.
  • For headings, capitalize all words except articles (unless they are the first or last words in the header or title), prepositions less than four letters long, "to" in infinitives and coordinating conjunctions.
  • Military titles, such as "commander," are only capitalized when used as part of a title.
  • Directives, instructions or any other name of a regulation should only be capitalized if they are being used to describe a specific regulation. If you are looking for instructions or directives, the Defense Technical Information Center has a comprehensive database. DoD Directive 6400.1 addresses the Family Advocacy Program.
  • Specific programs and services offered to service members should be capitalized, but general services should not be: The Family Advocacy Program is one of several advocacy services offered to service members aboard an installation.

General Rules

The following general guidelines should be followed regardless of the content being developed or for which medium.

  • The order of precedence for the military services (and their respective seals) is:
    Marine Corps
    Air Force
    Coast Guard
    Army National Guard
    Army Reserve
    Navy Reserve
    Marine Corps Reserve
    Air National Guard
    Air Force Reserve
    Coast Guard Reserve
  • When referring to the National Guard and the reserves, the National Guard is first.
  • Dates are written as month, day, year: Sept. 7, 2005.
  • Label pictures, illustrations and charts below the figure.
  • Label tables above the table.


Lists are a great way to organize ideas visually and enhance readability. When using lists:

  • Use bullets rather than figures.
  • When creating lists, use figures only if sequential order is important. Align the list by the last digit of the numeral. If you have more than five bullets, you have too many for a reader's quick look. Reconsider how you are displaying the information.  
  • Each bullet in a list should have parallel structure. For example, if one bullet starts with a verb, all bullets should start with a verb.
  • Use a colon after introductory text.
    Services for new parents include the following:
    • New Parent Support Program
    • Parenting classes
    • Child care


There are some basic rules to follow when you are writing content that includes numbers. See the guidelines below for proper use of numbers in content for Military Community and Family Policy:

  • In running text, spell out whole numbers below 10; use numerals for 10 and above. Spell out numbers when they are the first word in a sentence.
  • Always use numerals for ages and for percentages.
  • Use Arabic numerals unless denoting the sequence of wars or establishing a personal sequence for people or animals, for parts of a book, fractions, percentages and abbreviations.
  • When labeling figures, tables, slides, modules, chapters, etc., use numerals: Slide 3 instead of Slide Three.
  • Dates should be written out in the following order: month, day, year: Sept. 7, 2005.

Parallel Construction

For reading ease, use parallel structure. By using the same pattern of words when expressing more than one idea, you enhance reader comprehension.

Headings, listed items and items in a series need parallel structure. For example, if one item in a list starts with a verb, all items in the list should start with a verb as shown below:

Military leaders are encouraged to consider the following recommendations when deciding how to appropriately respond to an incident:

  • Treat victims with respect and compassion, and listen to their concerns without judgment.
  • Ensure that victims are made aware of available support services both on and off of the installation.


  • Use proper punctuation for clarity and reading ease.
  • Do not use a comma before a conjunction in a simple series: The flag was red, white and blue.
  • Use a comma before a conjunction in a complex sentence: Military OneSource provides information for military leaders, service and family members, and service providers.
  • Place a comma in between two independent clauses that are joined by a coordinating conjunction such as "and," "so," "but," "nor," "yet" and "or:"
    Enrollment in Department of Defense Education Activity schools within the United States may be allowed for other children, but the enrollment of these children will be subject to the availability of space in the schools.
  • Use a comma to set off introductory elements: For more information on requirements for Department of Defense Education Activity schools, please contact your local school.
  • Place periods and commas inside of closing quotation marks: Please use the words "website," "email" and "percent."
  • Do not use exclamation points when writing for Military Community and Family Policy.

Point of View

The type of writing you are doing will determine the appropriate point of view for your work. See the guidelines below:

  • Generally, content for Military Community and Family Policy communications products should be in second person: You should contact the Family Advocacy Program if you have concerns regarding domestic abuse involving active-duty service members.
  • Write blogs using the first person point of view.
  • Use direct language. Avoid passive voice construction.
  • In limited circumstances, for certain guides, Military OneSource articles and educational, promotional or training materials, use of the first or second person may be appropriate depending on the product and the target audience. Be sure to address this with the project supervisor prior to beginning content development.

Branding for Military Community and Family Policy

Approved versions of Military Community and Family Policy branding and program logos have been provided, as well as complete instructions on their usage. Use of Military Community and Family Policy branding or program logos should be implemented in accordance with the guidance provided in this section of the style guide.

All logos and seals may be used by Military Community and Family Policy staff. To prevent the perception of an endorsement by the Department of Defense, they may not be used outside the department. Where there is a partnership agreement, use of the logo or seal must be used by permission when allowed by the Office of General Counsel and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs).

Military Community and Family Policy Branding

Multiple versions of the Military Community and Family Policy seal are provided here for your use. (If you have questions regarding the artwork or its appropriate use, please submit them through the support link in the column on the left.)

Military Community and Family Policy Logo
MC&FP Seal
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Military Community and Family Policy Program Logos

As logos for Military Community and Family Policy programs are developed, they will be posted here. Please refer to the Visual Style Guide PDFs for information regarding the logo file types and the appropriate use of each. If you have questions regarding the artwork or its appropriate use, please submit them through the support link in the column on the left.

Exceptional Family Member Program
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Troops to Teachers Logo
Troops to Teachers
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

USA4 Military Families Logo (GIF)
USA4 Military Families
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Spouse Employment and Career Opportunities
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

My Training Hub - Color GIF
My Training Hub
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color
JPG/JPEG:  Color
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Relocation Assistance Program logo
Relocation Assistance Program
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

MOS logo (GIF)
Military OneSource
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color
JPG/JPEG:  Color
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

MOS logo stack (GIF)
Military OneSource Alternate
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color
JPG/JPEG:  Color
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Military Youth on the Move logo
Military Youth on the Move
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Military Spouse Employment Partnership Logo
Military Spouse Employment Partnership
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

My CAA Logo
Visual Style Guide: PDF
Downloadable Versions:
PNG:  Color / Black and White
JPG/JPEG:  Color / Black and White
GIF:  Color
All Versions: Zipped Archive

Military Community and Family Policy Websites and Applications

When referencing one of the following Military Community and Family Policy websites please use the approved URLs and abstracts listed below.

Military OneSource -
Provides online access to information and resources 24/7

Plan My Move -
Provides online organizational tools designed to make frequent moves easier and less disruptive for service members and families

Provides contact information for programs and services, maps and directions, links to comprehensive location overviews and community points of interest for military installations worldwide

USA4 Military Families -
Provides online information about 10 key quality-of-life issues for military families

Department of Defense Education Activity -
Manages the education programs for eligible dependents of military and civilian Department of Defense personnel

Defense Commissary Agency -
Operates a worldwide chain of commissaries, providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families

Army and Air Force Exchange Service -
Provides quality merchandise and services to customers and generates earnings, providing a dividend to support Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs

Marine Corps Exchange -
Provides the best quality and true value to its customers for their merchandising and purchasing needs

Navy Exchange -
Provides its customers with quality goods and services at a savings to support quality-of-life programs

Armed Forces Retirement Home -
Fulfills the nation's commitment to its veterans by providing a premier retirement community with exceptional residential care and extensive support services

Requirements for Brand Use

This page is currently under development.

Once complete it will provide guidance on the use of Military Community and Family Policy branding on print products and online applications and websites.  Please check back.


Military Community and Family Policy online learning supports computer and network learning and teaching through the use of electronic applications and is delivered via the Internet. Military Community and Family Policy elearning courses provide information and training through the use of text, image, animation, streaming video and audio.

Creating text

  • Development of content should be in accordance with the Writing for Military Community and Family Policy and Web Content topics within this style guide.

Imagery or graphics

  • Use of imagery or graphics should be in accordance with the Branding for Military Community and Family Policy topic within this style guide.

Additional guidelines for online learning are under development and will be posted here when complete.

Social Media

Writing for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, requires a specialized style of writing. Short, direct sentences are essential. Messages must be easily and instantly understood. The social media environment is noisy, and our messages must cut through the noise or they will be lost.

Our readers are busy people. We must write specifically for them or we will lose their attention and trust.

Be brief.
The top text box for a Facebook post should get people's attention and include a call to action.

Avoid lists, for example, "Programs like child care, hospital assistance, spouse support services, food services, deployment support, emergency support, computer training classes and counseling are just a few of the options available."


There are rare exceptions to this rule. Strive to keep the top text as brief as possible.

Be bold. Use action verbs.
Use action verbs. Be direct, be clear and be done.

Do: "Armed Services YMCA Makes Military Life Easier"
Don't: "The Non-Profit Armed Services YMCA - Making Military Life Easier."


Why? Inactive verbs slow comprehension. Worse, in this headline, the verb is removed, implied and replaced with a hyphen. Tell your reader what you want them to know. Don't make them guess.

Use your text, headline and caption to lead your reader.
Avoid redundant messages. In a Facebook post, the top text, headline and caption should flow.
There is no room for redundant messages. (Do you see how aggravating it is to read the same thing twice with a slight restatement? Remember, your readers are busy people. Use their time well.)

Include a call to action.
Each post should include a call to action. Call to actions may include requests to click on a link, comment on the post or take a specific action. Call to actions encourage and increase engagement.

Write clear prose.
Do not begin a sentence with a dependent clause. This technique is essentially writing backwards and slows reading. The reader must remember the dependent clause, then read on to the subject and verb in order to learn what to do with the clause. Begin sentences with the subject and verb, and if there is a need for a clause, it should follow, not lead.

Do: "Check out Military OneSource if you need help setting up a budget for your family."
Don't: "If you need help setting up a budget for your family, then check out Military OneSource."

Use a conversational tone.
Social media is more casual in nature, therefore, a light, friendly, conversational tone is appropriate. Always keep your particular audience in mind, however, when thinking about who you are "conversing" with. Posts directed toward leadership would be less casual than posts for service members and their families.

Note: While the use of exclamation marks is discouraged in most writing for Military Community and Family Policy, occasional uses within social media posts are acceptable.

Use photos to enhance credibility and comprehension.
Pictures and graphics help drive your point. Choose photos that restate the lead. A study examining the impact of photos on the credibility of a statement found that readers paid greater attention to photos over written content. A statement about the very obscure habits of a butterfly was shown to a group of people. Half the group got statements with photos of butterflies, and they were more inclined to believe the statement to be factual.

Use the active voice.
Verbs are either active or passive. When using the active voice, the subject-verb relationship is straightforward and explicit. In the passive voice, the relationship is indirect and implicit. People have to link the subject to a passive verb, while the active verb is already linked.

Do: "The executive committee approved the new policy."
Don't: "The new policy was approved by the executive committee."

Avoid rhetorical questions.
Structure a sentence as a question only if you are actually asking for information. For example, "What is a favorite healthy snack at your home?" is correct for social media because it is a call to action that initiates a conversation.

Rhetorical questions incite people to answer in the negative. For example, "Have you heard of the Armed Services YMCA?" is a rhetorical question. Even though someone might be very familiar with the Armed Services YMCA, a little voice in their brain yells, "No," and you have ended the conversation.


Shortened words and symbols are the norm, not the exception.
The use of Arabic numbers and symbols, such as the hashtag (#) and percent sign (%), is consistent with the quick communication in social media. It is acceptable to use well-recognized acronyms in social media posts. Examples include YMCA and PCS.

TAR Process

Military Community and Family Policy is a diverse organization located in multiple offices with support staff across the globe. As a result, there is a strong reliance on electronic means of communication for development and review of routine documents, online content, print products, and electronic newsletters and publications. When submitting a document for review, ensure that it is compliant with all requirements set forth in this online style guide and use the following naming convention when saving a file:

  • Name of file
  • Date
  • Initials of staff member submitting document

In addition, because some files being submitted will be loaded into a database and linked from online sources, file names should be limited to the following:

  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Dashes (used in place of spaces)
  • Underscores (used in place of spaces)
  • Periods

If spaces are left within a file name, in many cases once saved, a %20 will be added where the spaces were, causing your file name to appear as follows: MOS%20versionDahlgren%2015%20August%202010.pdf

By adding an underscore in place of a space, no additional characters will be incorporated into the file name once saved. This ensures the file, when uploaded to the database and incorporated into a hyperlink, will open correctly: MOS_versionDahlgren_15_August_2010.pdf

Web Content

When developing content designed for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications, there is an additional set of guidelines to follow. Web writers should follow the style guidelines proposed for general Military Community and Family Policy writing but should also note the following suggestions regarding the use of hyperlinks and URLs and how to write appropriately for the Web.

Approved URLs

When developing content for Military Community and Family Policy, it is important to be aware of the standards and guidelines used to approve URLs. Not all URLs are acceptable. See the guidelines below:

  • If a URL ends in .gov, .mil or, it can be used in your writing.
  • If a URL does not end in one of the three approved endings above, ask yourself: Is this link required to fulfill the mission and intended purpose of this document? If the answer is no, do not even consider using the link. If the answer is yes, you will have to submit the link for approval before using it.
  • If the URL does not end in one of the three approved endings, consider providing the necessary information without linking directly to the site. Below is a list of approved URLs for your use:

Military OneSource -

Plan My Move -


USA4 Military Families -

Department of Defense Education Activity -

Defense Commissary Agency -

Army and Air Force Exchange Service -

Marine Corps Exchange -

Navy Exchange -

Armed Forces Retirement Home -


Creating Hyperlinks

A hyperlink is a word or phrase in an electronic document that, when clicked on, immediately takes the reader to another page or document on the Internet with related content. When using and creating hyperlinks, please follow these guidelines:

  • Unless otherwise directed, writers should only link to federal, state or service websites - gov, .mil or addresses.
  • Writers contributing content for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications will most often use hyperlinks when referencing Department of Defense or military service policies and regulations, or when they want to direct the reader to another resource, such as another website. For reading ease, use hyperlinks rather than writing out the complete URL in the text:

    The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a Web resource and 24-hour help line for victims of domestic abuse seeking resources and support.
  • Links to content that is not government-originated or in the public domain should not be used. Non-governmental resources may be used in rare circumstances and must be used by permission of the author or publisher. In addition, prior to posting, the content use must be approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs); in some instances, approval by the Department of Defense's Office of General Counsel will also be required.

To create a hyperlink in Microsoft Word:

  1. Highlight the text that will become the hyperlink.
  2. Right click on the mouse and select Hyperlink from the menu that appears (or you can use the keystrokes Ctrl and K to pull up the same menu and select the same option).
  3. A window labeled Insert Hyperlink will appear on the screen with an address box at the bottom in which the URL (Web address) for the hyperlink can be entered.
  4. Either type in the URL or copy and paste the URL directly from the website into the address box in the Insert Hyperlink window.
  5. Once the complete URL has been entered into the box, click OK at the bottom of the Insert Hyperlink window.
  6. The hyperlink text should now appear in underlined blue font in the document.
  7. Click on the hyperlink to confirm that it directs the reader to the correct Web page or document.

Use of Shortcut URLs

The content pages within Military OneSource, as well as many key pieces of Military Community and Family Policy online content, have shortcut URLs associated with them. The use of shortcut URLs ensures that regardless of where the content resides within a website or application, external users will be able to access the most current information. When creating hyperlinks within any online products, use shortcut URLs, if available. Absolute URLs, in contrast to shortcut URLs, are often long and difficult to read:

Writing for the Web

Writing for the Web varies significantly from writing for journals, newspapers or other print media. People visiting websites tend to scan pages for information pertinent and useful to them. If they do not find it quickly, they often move on to another site. Here are some basic guidelines to help structure and organize content written for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications:

  • Brevity is essential. Avoid forcing readers to scroll down through text when possible - you risk losing them.
  • When text on a single page requires scrolling, use clear, concise headings and subheadings to help readers find the content they need quickly.
  • Use bulleted lists when possible and appropriate.
  • Never underline text. Underlining generally indicates a hyperlink on a website. Other underlining may be confusing for the reader.
  • Unless you have prior permission, hyperlinks must direct readers to government websites such as .mil, .gov, or websites.


For additional information and assistance in matters related to style and formatting for Military Community and Family Policy content, please use the following resources:

  • The Associated Press Style Guide provides guidelines on editorial style and publishing practices not included in this style guide.
  • The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition addresses spelling, use and capitalization guidance not defined or addressed in this guide.
  • The American Forces Press Service's Supplement to the Associated Press Style Guide provides Office of the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) writing guidelines.
  • The Defense Technical Information Center Style Guide provides guidance for developers of Department of Defense policy documents including directives, instructions and manuals.
  • The Military Community and Family Policy Information and Resources portal provides online resources including specific Department of Defense and Military Community and Family Policy information. It includes rosters, distribution lists, office locations, a global calendar, graphics, administrative tools and much more.


Terms A-Z

A Terms

abbreviations, acronyms and brevity codes - In general, avoid using abbreviations, acronyms and brevity codes unless they are easily recognized and understood by readers. Spell out in the first reference, but do not follow with an abbreviation, acronym or brevity code in parenthesis or set off by dashes. Spell out when the abbreviation, acronym or brevity code is the first word in a sentence. An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase to represent the complete form: USMC (the United States Marine Corps).

An acronym is a word formed from the first letters of a series of words: scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). An abbreviation is not an acronym.

A brevity code is a code which provides no security but has as its sole purpose the shortening of messages: SOCOM (U.S. Southern Command) and laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).

aboard vs. on board - The two terms mean nearly the same thing and in some uses are interchangeable. Aboard is the preferred usage. Use on board as two words, but hyphenate when used as an adjective. Aboard means on board, on, in or into a ship. For example, The crew is aboard the ship. An on-board medical team uses the on-board computer.

accept, except - Accept means to receive. Except means to exclude.

accident, crash - Generally acceptable for automobile and other collisions and wrecks. However, when negligence is claimed or proven, avoid the term accident which can be read by some as a term exonerating the person responsible. In such cases, use crash, collision or other terms.

Active Component - Capitalize in all cases.

active duty, active-duty - Use the lower case in all references. As a noun, use two words: Military personnel serve on active duty. As an adjective, hyphenate: All active-duty personnel must participate.

affect, effect - See AP Stylebook

Afghan, Afghani - Afghan is the term used for the people and culture of Afghanistan; Afghani is the Afghan unit of currency.

ages - Use figures: The girl is 16 years old; the law is 8 years old. Use hyphens for ages expressed as adjectives: A 5-year-old boy. Also, no apostrophe: The man is in his 30s.

Air Wing - Use as two words.

aircraft - Acceptable characterization of military aviation platforms. Do not refer to military aircraft as airplanes or planes.

aircraft designations -Always used as a letter(s) followed by a hyphen and number: SH-60B. 

Note: For print publications, aircraft name, for example, Tomcat, Hornet, etc., should be italicized. For News Service story submissions, use regular text (for example, Tomcat, Hornet, etc.)

air base - Use two words and do not abbreviate: Lackland Air Force Base. On the second reference: the Air Force base, the air base or the base.

aircraft squadrons - Spell out full name of squadron on first reference. On second reference, use abbreviation and hyphenate.

aircrew, aircrew member - Per Webster's one or two words.

airman, airmen - An individual who serves in the U.S. Air Force is an airman. The plural form is airmen. Lowercase in all uses.

all hands, all-hands - Two words as noun: He called all hands to the meeting. Hyphenate as adjective/compound modifier: They attended the all-hands call.

allude, elude - Allude is to speak of something without specifically mentioning it; elude is to avoid detection or escape from.

altar, alter - An altar is a table like platform used in a religious service; to alter is to change.

ampersand (&) - Use the ampersand when it is part of a company's formal name. It should not be used in place of and except for some accepted abbreviations such as B&B and R&B.

Anchors Aweigh - Not Anchors Away

Android - Use uppercase for the operating system created by Google that is used in many smartphones and tablets.

android - A science fiction term for a synthetic human created from biological materials.

anti-aircraft, anti-submarine - Hyphenate

Arabian Gulf - use only in direct quotations and explain in the text that the body of water is more commonly known as the Persian Gulf. (The Arabian Sea is that part of the Indian Ocean bounded by eastern Africa, Saudi Arabia and western India. The Persian Gulf is an inlet of the Arabian Sea between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. ‘The Persian Gulf' is a long-established name for the body of water off the southern coast of Iran.)

armed forces - Capitalize only as a proper name (Armed Forces Day), not as a noun (the armed forces) or adjective (an armed forces member). Lower case unless part of a title or when preceded by U.S., as in U.S. Armed Forces.

attribution - Identify the source of reported information; especially objective and opinioned-based statements. Include context in which comment was made if it is not apparent. Quotation marks are used to surround the exact words of a speaker or writer when reported in a story.


B Terms

Bagram Airfield - The preferred spelling for the U.S. base in Afghanistan.

battalion - Capitalize when used with a figure to form a name: the 3rd Battalion, the 10th Battalion. Use numerals in unit names, and do not hyphenate: NMCB 4, not ‘NMCB FOUR.'

battle group - Do not use battle group. Instead, use carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group.

because, since - Use because to denote a cause-effect relationship. Use since to describe a time from the past up to now: He went because he was told. The rules of writing have relaxed a bit, and since is now considered acceptable in a causal sense when the first event in a sequence led logically to the second but was not a direct cause: They went to the game, since they had been given the tickets.

biannual, biennial - Biannual means twice a year and is a synonym for semiannual. Biennial means every two years.

biweekly, semiweekly - Biweekly means every other week; semiweekly means twice a week.

boats, ships - A boat is a watercraft of any size but generally used to describe a smaller craft. A ship is a large, seagoing vessel. Use boat to describe a submarine. Do not use to describe a ship.

boot camp - Use as two words.

burial at sea - Do not hyphenate.

bus, buses, busses - A bus is a vehicle used for transportation; the plural form is buses. A buss is a kiss; the plural form is busses.

C Terms

call signs - Do not refer to individuals by call signs. Use full name and rank.

cancel, canceled, canceling, cancellation - Use one l in all forms except for cancellation.

cannon, canon - A cannon is a weapon ; a canon is a church law or rule or a musical composition.

canvas, canvass - Canvas is a heavy cloth. Canvass is both a noun and a verb denoting a survey.

capital, capitol - A capital is the city where a seat of government is located; do not capitalize. When used in the financial sense, capital describes money, equipment or property used in a business or by a corporation. Capitalize U.S. Capitol when referring to the building in Washington, D.C.: The meeting was held on Capitol Hill in the west wing of the Capitol. Follow the same practice when referring to state capitols: The Virginia Capitol is in Richmond. Thomas Jefferson designed the Capitol of Virginia.

capitalization - Follow AP's guidelines: In general, avoid unnecessary capitals. Use a capital letter only if you can justify it by one of the principles listed here. Many words and phrases, including special cases, are listed separately in the AP Stylebook. Entries that are capitalized without further comment should be capitalized in all uses. If there is no relevant listing in the AP Stylebook for a particular word or phrase, consult Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Use lowercase if the dictionary lists it as an acceptable form for the sense in which the word is being used.

Some basic principles:
PROPER NOUNS: Capitalize nouns that constitute the unique identification for a specific person, place or thing: John, Mary, America, Boston, England. Some words, such as the examples just given, are always proper nouns. Some common nouns receive proper noun status when they are used as the name of a particular entity: General Electric, Gulf Oil.

PROPER NAMES: Capitalize common nouns such as party, river, street and west when they are
an integral part of the full name for a person, place or thing: Democratic Party, Mississippi
River, Fleet Street, West Virginia
. Lowercase these common nouns when they stand alone in subsequent references: the party, the river, the street. Lowercase the common noun elements of names in plural uses: the Democratic and Republican parties, Main and State streets, lakes Erie and Ontario. Exception: plurals of formal titles with full names are capitalized: PresidentsJimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford.

AP Stylebook entries that provide additional guidelines are:

  • Animals
  • Brand names
  • Building
  • Committee
  • Congress
  • Datelines
  • Days of the week
  • Directions and religions
  • Family names
  • Food
  • Geographic names
  • Governmental bodies
  • Heavenly bodies
  • Historical periods and events
  • Holidays and holy days
  • Legislature
  • Months
  • Monuments
  • Nationalities and races
  • Nicknames
  • Non-U.S. givernmental bodies
  • Non-U.S. legislative bodies
  • Organizations and institutions
  • Planets
  • Plants
  • Police department
  • Religious references
  • Seasons
  • Trademarks
  • Unions

POPULAR NAMES: Some places and events lack officially designated proper names but have
popular names that are the effective equivalent: the Combat Zone (a section of downtown
Boston), the Main Line (a group of Philadelphia suburbs), the South Side (of Chicago), the
(of South Dakota), the Street (the financial community in the Wall Street area of New York). The principle applies also to shortened versions of the proper names of one-of-a-kind events: the Series (for the World Series), the Derby (for the Kentucky Derby). This practice should not, however, be interpreted as a license to ignore the general practice of lowercasing the common noun elements of a name when they stand alone.

DERIVATIVES: Capitalize words that are derived from a proper noun and still depend on it for their meaning: American, Christian, Christianity, English, French, Marxism, Shakespearean.
Lowercase words that are derived from a proper noun but no longer depend on it for their meaning: french fries, herculean, manhattan cocktail, malapropism, pasteurize, quixotic, venetian blind.

SENTENCES: Capitalize the first word in a statement that stands as a sentence. See sentences and parentheses in the AP Stylebook. In poetry, capital letters are used for the first words of some phrases that would not be capitalized in prose. See poetry in the AP Stylebook.

COMPOSITIONS: Capitalize the principal words in the names of books, movies, plays, poems, operas, songs, radio and television programs, works of art, etc. See composition titles, magazine names and newspaper names in the AP Stylebook.

TITLES: Capitalize formal titles when used immediately before a name. Lowercase formal titles when used alone or in constructions that set them off from a name by commas. Use lowercase at all times for terms that are job descriptions rather than formal titles. See academic titles, courtesy titles, legislative titles, military titles, nobility titles, religious titles and titles in the AP Stylebook.

BULLET LISTS: Capitalize the first word in each bullet of a bulleted list. Follow the above-noted capitalization rules for all other terms within each bullet.

carrier strike group - Capitalize when used with the name of a ship. Acceptable to precede name of strike group with the. The Enterprise Carrier Strike Group arrived in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations Dec. 9.

cease-fire, cease-fires - These are the forms for the noun and adjective. The verb form is cease fire.

Centcom - Down style is acceptable in headlines and for second and subsequent references to U.S. Central Command, a unified combatant command with headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

chaplain - Is capitalized when used with a name, lowercase in other uses. For military chaplains, the rank goes in parentheses in first-reference-with-name style: Army Chaplain (Maj.) Joseph T. Smith. Use a chaplain's religious affiliation only if it's relevant to the story.

child care - Use as two words, no hyphen in all cases.

civilian titles - Use full name and title or job description on first reference. Capitalize the title or job description, and do not use a comma to separate it from the individual's name when it precedes the name. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense John Smith attended the graduation ceremonies. Use lower case when titles follow the name. John Smith, deputy assistant secretary of defense, attended the graduation ceremonies.

cities/datelines - For cities that stand alone, use the list of datelines found in AP Style. Because of their strong Navy ties and frequent reference in news stories, Great Lakes, Norfolk, San Diego and Pearl Harbor can stand alone, without states.

close proximity - Do not use; it's redundant. All proximity is close.

coalition - Do not capitalize: U.S. and coalition forces took part in the event.

Coast Guard - Capitalize when referring to this branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, a part of the Department of Homeland Security: the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard, Coast Guard policy. Do not use the abbreviation USCG except in quotes. Use lowercase for similar forces of other nations.

Coast Guardsman - Capitalize as a proper noun when referring to an individual in a U.S. Coast Guard unit: He is a Coast Guardsman. Lowercase guardsman when it stands alone.

commander in chief - Use no hyphens. Once used both as the title for the president in the context of his authority over the armed forces and for commanders of the unified commands, it now applies only to the president. Use it only in context and not as a routine synonym for president. To apply the term to the president when he is acting in a nonmilitary capacity uses the term out of context. For example: The commander in chief asked Congress to ratify the treaty. An example of using the term in context: Using his authority as commander in chief, the president relieved the general of his command.

commanding officer - Do not capitalize unless used as title preceding a name: Commanding Officer Capt. Tom Jones welcomed the distinguished visitors to the base. The commanding officer of the cruiser, Capt. Mary Smith, announced the ship would make a port visit to Key West, Florida.

complement, compliment - Complement is a noun and a verb denoting completeness or the process of supplementing something: The ship has a complement of 200 sailors and 20 officers. The tie complements his suit. Compliment is a noun or a verb that denotes praise or the expression of courtesy: The captain complimented the sailors. She was flattered by the compliments on her project.

compose, comprise, constitute - Compose means to create or put together. It may be used in both the active or passive voices: She composed a song. The United States is composed of 50 states. Comprise means to contain, to include all or embrace. It is best used only in the active voice, followed by a direct object: The United States comprises 50 states. The jury comprises four men and seven women. Constitute, in the sense of form or make up, may be the best word if neither compose nor comprise seems to fit: Fifty states constitute the United States. Five men and seven women constitute the jury.

composition titles - Apply the guidelines listed here to DoD Directives, DoD Instructions, service publications (for example, JCS Pub 1, "Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States"), article titles, webinar titles, podcast titles, book titles, computer game titles, movie titles, opera titles, play titles, poem titles, album and song titles, radio and television program titles, and the titles of lectures, speeches and works of art.

The guidelines:

  • Capitalize the principal words, including prepositions and conjunctions of four or more letters.
  • Capitalize an article - the, a, an - or words of fewer than four letters if it is the first or last word in a title.
  • Put quotation marks around the names of all such works except the Bible and books that are primarily catalogs of reference material. In addition to catalogs, this category includes almanacs, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers, handbooks and similar publications. Do not use quotation marks around such software titles as WordPerfect or Windows.

counter - AP's rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen: counteract, countercharge, counterspy.

courtesy titles - Refer to both men and women by first and last name, without courtesy titles, on the first reference: Susan Smith or Robert Smith. Refer to both men and women by last name, without courtesy titles, in subsequent references. Use the courtesy titles Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. only in direct quotations or after first reference when a woman specifically requests it: Mrs. Smith or Ms. Smith. See also military titles.

CONUS - This is a brevity code for the continental United States. It's avoidable alphabet soup. Use it only in quoted matter, and even at that, be sure that use closely follows a spelled-out reference to the continental United States. Better yet, just paraphrase the quote.

This term refers to the 48 contiguous states. The term's origin predates the admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states, and while Alaska is indeed part of the North American continent, Hawaii is not.

crew member - Use two words, consistent with service member.

cutlines - Write in historical-present tense, identifying recognizable people left to right with full name and title, and including the year in dates. Use a colon at the beginning of the lead sentence or commas in the body of the sentence to indicate a person's relative position in the photo.

The form: Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, left, meets with Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith during U.S.-Australia Ministerial Consultations in San Francisco, Sept. 15, 2011. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

Left to right: Army Staff Sgts. Eric Anton, Leigh Clarke David Thiele of the North Dakota National Guard judge a Memorial Day weekend duck-calling contest on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, May 30, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Yoshauna Gunn See also: photo credits

cyberspace, cybersecurity - AP's guidance on the cyber- prefix is vague. For consistency, we will follow the American Forces Press Service's guidance. Limit the one-word construction to cyberspace and cybersecurity. Use two words for all other terms. This is, indeed, arbitrary, but it's easy to remember and ensures consistency regardless of the editing team.

D Terms

Dallas - The city in Texas stands alone in datelines.

damage, damages - Damage is destruction; damages are awarded by a court as compensation for injury, loss, etc.

data - A plural noun, normally takes plural verbs and pronouns. One exception is when the word refers to a unit: The data is sound.

database - One word, no dashes.

dates - Always use Arabic figures without st, nd or th. See months for examples and guidelines.

day care - Two words, no hyphens in all uses.

daylight saving time - Not savings. No hyphen. When linking the term with a time zone, use only the word daylight: Eastern Daylight Time, Pacific Daylight Time, etc. Note, too, that it is abbreviated as EDT, PDT, etc.

days of the week - Capitalize and spell out except when needed in a tabular format: Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat. (three letters without periods).

D-Day - June 6, 1944, the day the Allies invaded Western Europe in WWII.

decades - Use Arabic figures to indicate decades of history. Use an apostrophe to indicate numerals that are left out: show plurals by adding the letter s: the 1890s, the ‘90s, the Gay ‘90s, the 1920s, the mid-1930s.

decimal units - Use a period and numeral to indicate decimal amounts. Decimalization should not exceed two places in textual material unless there are special circumstances.

Declaration of Independence - Lowercase the declaration whenever it stands alone.

Deep South - Capitalize both words when referring to the region that consists of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.

defense spending - Military spending is the preferred term.

demolish, destroy - Both mean to do away with something completely. Avoid redundant writing: something can't be totally demolished or totally destroyed.

department - See the AP Style Guide for the full listing of all government departments for first and second references. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms when possible. A phrase such as the department is preferable on second reference because it's more readable and avoids alphabet soup. Lowercase department in plural uses but capitalize the proper name element: the departments of Labor and Justice. Lowercase the department whenever it stands alone and do not abbreviate department in any usage.

Department of Defense publications - When referencing Department of Defense publications, including DoD Directives, DoD Instructions and service publications, cite the publication number and the document title. Put quotation marks around the title. For example, JCS Pub 1, "Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States." See also composition titles.

dependent - Use family member unless usage is in conjunction with a formal description of military benefits.

derogatory terms - Do not use derogatory terms except in direct quotes and then only when their use is an integral, essential part of the story.

dictionaries - For spelling, style and usage questions not covered in this style guide, use the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Use the first reference listed, unless there is a specific exception listed in this guide.

directions and regions - In general, lowercase north, south, northeast, northern, etc., when they indicate compass direction. Capitalize these words when they designate regions: A storm system that developed in the Midwest is spreading eastward. It will bring showers to the East Coast. With names of nations, states and cities, use lowercase unless directions are part of a proper name: northern France, western Montana, Northern Ireland and South Korea.

disabled, handicapped, impaired -In general, do not describe an individual as disabled or handicapped unless it is clearly pertinent to the story. If a description must be used, try to be specific. For example: An ad featuring Michael J. Fox swaying noticeably from the effects of Parkinson's disease drew nationwide attention. Avoid terms that connote pity, such as afflicted with or suffers from multiple sclerosis. Instead, for example, use has multiple sclerosis. Do not use mentally retarded, deaf and dumb, and confined to a wheelchair. Avoid the words cripple, handicapped and deaf-mute.

disc, disk - Use the disc spelling for phonograph records and related terms (disc-jockey), optical and laser-based devices (a Blu-ray Disc) and disc brake. Use disk for computer-related references and medical references such as slipped disk.

discreet, discrete - Discreet means prudent, circumspect: The politician wasn't very discreet. Discrete means detached, separate: There are four discrete sounds from a quadraphonic system.

disinterested, uninterested - Disinterested meant impartial; uninterested means that someone lacks interest.

dispel, dispelled, dispelling

distances - Use figures for 10 and above, spell out one through nine: He walked four miles.

district - Always spell out. Use a figure and capitalize district when forming a proper name: the 2nd District.

dive, dived, diving

Djibouti - Stands alone in datelines for the East African country and capital.

dollars - Always use lowercase. Use figures and the $ sign in all except casual references or amounts without a figure: The book cost $4. Dad, please give me a dollar. Dollars are flowing overseas.

domain names - The address used to locate a particular website or email system. In email addresses, it's permissible to use the @ sign.

domestic abuse - This term is preferred rather than domestic violence.

domino, dominoes

"don't ask, don't tell"
- The 1993 policy that barred gays from serving openly in the military; it was overturned in 2011.

door to door, door-to-door - Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: He is a door-to-door salesman. But: He went door to door.

do's and don'ts


DVD - The abbreviation is acceptable in all references; DVD is the abbreviation for digital video disc or digital versatile disc. The disc stores music, video or data.

DVR - Acceptable on second reference for digital video recorder. Do not use TiVo to describe the generic DVRs offered by many cable systems.

dwarf -The preferred term for people with a medical or genetic condition resulting in short stature. The plural is dwarfs.

dyeing, dying - Dyeing refers to changing colors; dying refers to death.

E Terms

eBook - The electronic, non-paper version of a book or publication.

e.g. - Meaning for example; it is always followed by a comma. Use only when absolutely necessary to avoid the alphabet soup.

either - Use to mean one or the other, not both

either ... or, neither ... nor - The nouns that follow these words don't constitute a compound subject; they are alternate subjects and require a verb that agrees with the nearer subject: Neither he nor she is going. Neither he nor they are going.

eLearning - The use of electronic media, information and communication technologies in education and instructional systems design. The preferred style is without the hyphen, eLearning.

eleventh - Spell out only in the phrase the eleventh hour, meaning at the last moment; otherwise, use the numeral.

ellipsis - Use an ellipsis to indicate the deletion of one or more words in condensing quotes, texts and documents. Be especially careful to avoid deletions that would distort the meaning. Treat an ellipsis as a three-letter word, constructed with three periods and two spaces ( ... ).

email - Acceptable in all references for electronic mail. Use a hyphen with terms e-business and e-commerce.

eMagazine - The electronic, non-paper version of a magazine.  

embarrass, embarrassing, embarrassed, embarrassment

embassy - An embassy is the official office of an ambassador in a foreign country and the office that handles the political relations of one nation with another. A consulate is the office of a consul in a foreign city that handles the business affairs and personal needs of citizens of the appointed country. Capitalize with the name of a nation; use lowercase without it: the French Embassy, the U.S. Consulate, the embassy, the consulate.

emigrate, immigrate - One who leaves a country emigrates. One who comes into a country immigrates.

enroll, enrolled, enrolling

ensure, insure, assure - Use ensure to mean guarantee: We took steps to ensure accuracy. Use insure for references to insurance: The policy insures his life. Use assure to mean to make sure or give confidence. She assured us the statement was accurate.

entitled - Use to mean a right to do or have something. Don't use to mean titled. Correct: She was entitled to the promotion. Correct: The book was titled, "Mares Eat Oats, Does Eat Oats and Little Lambs Eat Ivy."

envelop - A verb meaning to surround (envelope is a noun - you put your letter home in it).

equator - Always use lowercase.

euro - The common currency of 17 of the 27 nation of the European Union, known as the eurozone. Plural is euros.

evacuee - A person dislocated due to a natural or manmade disaster.

eve - Capitalize when used after the name of a holiday: New Year's Eve, Christmas Eve; but the eve of Christmas.


exclamation point - Do not use exclamation points when developing content for MC&FP. This guidance applies to social media, Military OneSource, blogs and all other communication avenues.

executive branch - Always lowercase.

executive director - Capitalize before a name only if it is a formal corporate or organizational title.

Executive Mansion - Capitalize only in reference to the White House.

eye, eyed, eyeing

eye to eye, eye-to-eye - Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: an eye-to-eye conversation.


F Terms

face to face - When two people meet for a discussion, they meet face to face. No need to use hyphens unless the phrase is used as a modifier before a noun.

Fahrenheit - Capitalize the temperature scale commonly used in the United States. To convert to the Celsius scale, subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit scale, multiple the total by 5 and then divide the total by 9. (You can also look at the conversion chart in the AP Style Guide.)

FAQ - The abbreviation for frequently asked questions.

Family Readiness System - The Family Readiness System is the network of programs, services, people and agencies, and the collaboration among them, that promotes the readiness and quality of life of service members and their families. Capitalize this term in all uses.

farther, further - Farther refers to physical distance: He walked farther into the woods. Further refers to an extension of time or degree: She will look further into the issue.

faze, phase - Faze means to embarrass or disturb: The scrub did not faze her. Phase denotes an aspect or stage: They will phase in a new system.

firefighter, fireman - The preferred term to describe the person who fights fire is firefighter. The term fireman refers to a person who tends fires in a furnace.

first class, first-class - Hyphenate as a modifier before a noun: The restaurant was first class. It was a first-class restaurant.

first degree, first-degree - Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: It was murder in the first degree. He was convicted of first-degree murder.

first family - Always use lower case.

firsthand - Both an adjective and adverb; no hyphen.

First Lady - As an exception to the AP Stylebook, capitalize as a formal title when used before a name. Use lowercase in other uses before the name of the chief of state's wife.

fiscal, monetary - Fiscal applies to budgetary matters; monetary applies to money supply.

fiscal year - The 12-month period that a corporation or governmental body uses for bookkeeping purposes. In writing, please use the word "fiscal" followed by the year rather than "FY15." For example: The federal government's fiscal year starts three months ahead of the calendar year – fiscal 2007, for example, ran from Oct. 1, 2006 to Sept. 30, 2007.

flack, flak - Flack is slang for a press agent. Avoid using in copy. Flak is a type of anti-aircraft fire; sometimes used figuratively as a barrage of criticism.

flair, flare - Flair is conspicuous talent or style. Flare is a verb meaning to blaze with sudden, bright light or burst out in anger. It is also a noun meaning a flame.

flash mob - A gathering of people performing an action in a public place designated by a text message, email, social media post or other notification sent to the participants. Flash mob organizers are often aiming to surprise passers-by by performing spontaneous and seemingly pointless actions en masse.

fleet - Use figures and capitalize when forming a proper name: the 6th Fleet. Lowercase fleet whenever it stands alone.

flier, flyer - Flier is the preferred term for a person flying on an aircraft (aviators and passengers) or a handbill. Flyer is the proper term for some trains and buses; The Western Flyer.

flounder, founder - A flounder is a fish; to flounder is to move clumsily or jerkily, to flop about. To founder is to bog down, become disabled or sink: The ship floundered in heavy seas for hours, and then foundered.

forbear, forebear - To forbear is to avoid or shun. A forebear is an ancestor.

forbid, forbade, forbidding

forcible rape - A redundancy that typically should be avoided. The term may be used, however, in stories dealing with statutory rape (which doesn't necessarily involve a use of force)

fore - The rules of prefixes apply; in general, no hyphens.

forego, forgo - To forego means to go before: a foregone conclusion. Forgo means to abstain from: He decided to forgo the second helping of mashed potatoes.

fort - Do not abbreviate for cities or military installations: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Bragg.

forward - not forwards

Four-H Club - 4-H Club is preferred. Members are 4-H'ers.

Fourth of July - Also Independence Day.

fractions - As a general rule, spell out amounts less than 1 in stories, using hyphens between the words: two-thirds, four-fifths, seven-sixteenths, etc. Use figures for precise amounts larger than 1, converting to decimals whenever practical. When using fractional characters, use a forward-slash mark (/): 1/8, 1/4, 5/16, 9/10, etc. For mixed numbers, use 1 1/2, 2 5/8, etc. with a full space between the whole number and the fraction.

free – Use this term when referencing Military OneSource services for eligible individuals. Free is easily understood and preferred when writing content for service and family members and service providers and should be used instead of no cost. However, when writing content for leaders pertaining to Military OneSource policy or the Military OneSource contract, the term no cost should be used instead.

fulfill, fulfilled, fulfilling

full - hyphenate when use to form compound modifiers: full-page, full-scale, full-length.

G Terms

gage, gauge - A gage is a security or a pledge; a gauge is a measuring device. Gauge is also used to designate the size of shotguns.

gambling - Preferred term for playing games of chance. Avoid terms like gaming except in quotations or proper names.

gamut, gantlet, gauntlet - A gamut is a scale of notes or any complete range of extent. A gantlet is a flogging ordeal, used literally or figuratively. A gauntlet is a glove. To throw down the gauntlet means to issue a challenge. To take up the gauntlet means to accept a challenge.

Geneva Conventions - Note the final s.

gibe, jibe - To gibe means to taunt or sneer: They gibed him about his mistakes. Jibe means to shift direction or colloquially, to agree: They jibed their ship across the wind. Their stories didn't jibe.

GI, GIs - Believed to have originated as an abbreviation for government issue; now used to describe military personnel. Soldier is the preferred term when describing a service member in the Army, Marine is preferred for a service member in the U.S. Marines, sailor is preferred for a person serving in the Navy and airman is preferred for a service member (regardless of gender) in the Air Force. Note that unless the term is at the start of a sentence, lowercase soldier, sailor and airman but capitalize Marine.

girl - Applicable until the 18th birthday is reached. Use woman or young woman thereafter.

girlfriend, boyfriend - No hyphen.

gods and goddesses - Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions. Capitalize all noun references to the deity: God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, etc. Lowercase personal pronouns: he, him, thee, thou.


good, well - Good is an adjective that means something is as it should be or is better than average. When used as an adjective, well means in a satisfactory manner or suitable. When used as an adverb, well means in a satisfactory manner or skillfully.

government - Always lowercase, never abbreviate: the federal government, the state government, the U.S. government.

governor - Capitalize and abbreviate as Gov. or Govs. when used as a formal title before one or more names.

H Terms

half-mast, half-staff - On ships and at Naval stations ashore, flags are flown at half-mast. Elsewhere ashore, flags are flown at half-staff.

Halloween - From the very old English, All Hallow's Evening shortened to Hallowe'en and now, without the apostrophe.

handheld, hand-held - Handheld is a noun; hand-held is an adjective.

hangar, hanger - A hangar is a building; a hanger is used for clothes.

harass, harassment

hashtag - The use of a number sign (#) in a tweet to convey the subject a user is writing about so that it can be indexed and accessed in other users' feeds. If someone is writing about the Super Bowl, for example, the use of #superbowl could be an appropriate hashtag. No space is used between the hashtag and the accompanying search term. Hashtags are sometimes used on social networks other than Twitter, such as Instagram.

hell - Use lowercase; however, capitalize Hades, because the term refers to a proper name of a pagan or mythological god.

Her Majesty - Capitalize when it appears in quotations or is appropriate before a name as the long form or a formal title. For other purposes, use the woman's name or the queen.

His Majesty - Capitalize when it appears in quotations or is appropriate before a name as the long form or a formal title. For other purposes, use the man's name or the king.

Hispanic - A person from or whose ancestors were from a Spanish-speaking land or culture. Latino and Latina are sometimes preferred; follow the person's preference. Use a more specific reference when possible, such as Puerto Rican, Cuban or Mexican-American.


home-school, home-schooler, home-schooled, home-schooling

homicide, murder, manslaughter - Homicide is a legal term for slaying or killing. Murder is malicious, premeditated homicide. Some states define certain homicides as murder if the killing occurs in the course of armed robbery, rape, etc. Generally speaking, manslaughter is homicide without malice or premeditation. A homicide should not be described as murder unless a person has been convicted of that charge. Do not say that a victim was murdered until someone has been convicted in court. Instead, say that a victim was killed or slain. Do not write that X was charged with murdering Y. Use the formal charge murder and, if not already in the story, specify the nature of the killing - shooting, stabbing, beating, drowning, etc.": Jones was charged with murder in the shooting of his girlfriend.


  • An officer pulled over 29-year-old John White, who was arrested and charged with murder, according to Andrew Johnson, the county sheriff's spokesman.
  • The 66-year-old amateur photographer has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder for the slaying of four women.
  • The killings occurred between 1977 and 1979. Prosecutors say Adams raped, tortured and robbed some of them before killing them.
  • Cook County Sheriff James Jones says a shooting that left one woman dead and a man injured appears to be a murder-suicide.

hooky - Slang for skipping school or work.

hopefully - It means in a hopeful manner. Also acceptable is the modern usage: it's hoped, we hope.

hotline - No hyphen.

House of Representatives - Capitalize when referring to a specific government body: The U.S. House of Representatives, the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Humvee - A trademark for four-wheeled vehicle built by AM General Motors (HMMWV - high mobility multi-wheeled vehicle).

husband, wife - Husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested. For same-sex couples, when developing web content, use same-sex couple, or partner. When referring to the policy, use the official terminology, same-sex domestic partner. In direct quotes, regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

hydro - The rules of prefixes applies, but generally, no hyphen: hydroelectric, hydrophobia.

hyper - The rules of prefixes applies, but generally, no hyphen: hyperactive, hypercritical.

I Terms

ice age - Use lowercase, with two words. The ice age denotes not a single period, but any of a series of cold periods marked by glaciers followed by periods of relative warmth.

i.e. - Abbreviation for the Latin, that is. As a general rule, spell out that is rather than creating alphabet soup.

IM - Use of the abbreviation for instant message; sometimes used as a verb: IM'ing, IM'd is acceptable on second reference for instant messaging.

impassable, impassible, impassive - Impassable means that passage is impossible: The bridge was impassable. Impassible and impassive describe a lack of sensitivity to pain or suffering: She was impassive throughout the ordeal.

imply, infer - Writers or speakers imply in the words they use. A listener or reader infers something from the words.

improvised explosive device - An IED is a homemade device incorporating destructive, lethal noxious, pyrotechnic or incendiary chemicals and designed to destroy, incapacitate, harass or distract. It may incorporate military materials, but normally is devised from nonmilitary components. The term is applied to a variety of explosive devices, such as bombs and mines. The term IED is acceptable on second and subsequent references, but only if the available facts are detailed enough to allow avoiding use of the jargon term entirely; opt for the homemade bomb, roadside bomb or the appropriate plain-English term.

in, into - In indicates location: He was in the room. Into indicates motion: She walked into the room.

Inauguration Day - Capitalize only when referring to the total collection of events that include inauguration of a U.S. president. Use lowercase in all other uses: Inauguration Day is Jan. 20. The inauguration day for the change has not been set.

incredible, incredulous - Incredible means unbelievable; incredulous means skeptical.

Indians - American Indian or Native American is acceptable for those in the U.S. Follow the person's preference and to be precise, use the name of the tribe: He is a Navajo commissioner.

indiscreet, indiscrete - Indiscreet means lacking prudence; the noun form is indiscretion. Indiscrete means not separated into distinct parts; the noun form is indiscreteness.

infant - The term is applicable to a child through 12 months old.

injuries - Injuries are suffered. They are not sustained or received

Instagram - A social network in which users share photos they've taken, usually on a smartphone, with people who have chosen to follow them. Instagram photos are frequently shared onto other social networks. Facebook bought Instagram in April 2012.

internet - Use lowercase, effective with the AP Stylebook change announced, April 3, 2016.

iPad, iPhone, iPod - All are Apple products. You may use the product name, iPad, iPhone, iPod when it is the first word in a sentence.

Iran - The nation formerly called Persia. It is not an Arab country. The people are called Iranians. The official language is Persian, also known as Farsi.

Iraq - The Arab nation coinciding with ancient Mesopotamia. Its people are called Iraqis; the dialect of Arabic is Iraqi.

irregardless - Use regardless (which is correct) and avoid the double negative

Islam - Followers of Islam are called Muslims. Their holy book is called the Quran. It was revealed by Allah (God) to the Prophet Mohammed in the seventh century in Mecca and Medina. The place of worship is the mosque. The weekly holy day (Juma) is Friday and is equivalent to Sunday in the Christian tradition.

island - Capitalize island or islands when part of a proper name: Prince Edward Island, the Hawaiian Islands. Lowercase island and islands when they stand alone or when the reference is to the islands in a given area: the Pacific islands. Lowercase all islands of construction: the island of Nantucket.

it - Use this pronoun, rather than she, in reference to ships and nations.

italics - Do not use italics. They are used in this style guide only for emphasis and ease of comprehension.

it's, its - It's is a contraction for it is or it has: It's up to you. It's been a long time. Its is a possessive form of a neuter pronoun: The company lost its assets.

J Terms

jail - The term is not interchangeable with prison.

Jesus - The central figure of Christianity, he may also be called Jesus Christ or Christ. Use lowercase for personal pronouns when referring to him.

Jew - Use for a male or female follower of Judaism.

job descriptions - Always use lowercase.

judge - Capitalize before a name when it's the formal title for an individual who presides in a court of law. Do not continue to use the title in the second reference.

judge advocate - The plural is judge advocates. Also: judge advocate, judge advocates general. Capitalize as a formal title before a name.


judicial branch - Always use lowercase.

junior, senior - Abbreviate as Jr. and Sr. with full names of persons or animals. Do not precede by a comma: Martin Luther King Jr. The notation II or 2nd may be used if it is preferred by the individual. If necessary to distinguish between father and son in second reference, use the elder Smith or the younger Smith.

K Terms

K - Use K in references to modem transmission speeds, in keeping with standard usage: a 56K modem (no spaces after the numeral). The abbreviation should not be used to mean 1,000 or $1,000.

kaffiyeh - The men's headdress in Arab countries.

kidnap, kidnapped, kidnapping, kidnapper

Koran - Use Quran in all references except when preferred by an organization or a specific title in a name.

Korean War - Use lowercase: Korean conflict.

kudos - To give credit or praise for an achievement.

L Terms

Labor Day - The first Monday in September.

lady - Do not use as a synonym for woman. Lady may be used when it is a courtesy title or when a specific reference to fine manners is appropriate without patronizing overtones.

lake - Capitalize as part of a proper name: Lake Erie, Canandaigua Lake and the Finger Lakes. Lowercase in plural uses: lakes Erie and Ontario; Canandaigua and Seneca lakes.

late - Do not use it to describe a person's action while alive: Only the late senator opposed the bill. The sentence will be correct only if the senator was not alive at the time of writing.

Latino, Latina - Often the preferred term for a person from or whose ancestors were from a Spanish-speaking land or culture from Latin America. Latina is the feminine form. Follow the person's preference. Use a more specific identification when possible, such as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Columbian or Mexican-American.

latitude, longitude - Latitude, the distance north or south of the equator, is designated by parallels. Longitude, the distance east or west of Greenwich, England, is designated by meridians. Use these forms to express degrees of latitude and longitude: New York City lies south of the 41st parallel north and along the 74th meridian.

lay, lie - The action word lay means to place. It takes the direct object: I will lay the book on the table. (lay, laid, laying) Lie indicates a state of reclining along a horizontal plane: I want to lie down on the couch. Want to be confused? Its past tense is lay and the past participle is lain; the present participle is lying.

legislative titles - On the first reference, use Rep., Reps., Sen., Sens. before one or more names. Spell out and lowercase representative and senator in other uses. Spell out other legislative titles in all uses. On second reference, do not use legislative titles before a name unless they are part of a direct quotation.

legislature - Capitalize when preceded by the name of a state: the Kansas Legislature. Retain capitalization when the state name is dropped, but the reference is specifically to that state's legislature. Although the word legislature is not part of the formal proper name for the lawmaking bodies in many states, it is commonly used that way and should be treated as such in any story that doesn't use the formal name.


-like - Do not precede this suffix by a hyphen unless the letter would be tripled or the main element is a proper noun: bill-like, Norwalk-like (it's a virus), shell-like, businesslike. An exception is flu-like.

like, as - Use like as a preposition to compare nouns and pronouns. It requires an object: Jim blocks like a pro. The conjunction, as, is the correct word to introduce clauses: Jim blocks the linebacker as he should.


linage, lineage - Linage is the number of lines; lineage is ancestry or descent.

Lincoln's Birthday - Capitalize birthday when referring to the holiday (President's Day). Lincoln was born Feb. 12; his birthday is not a federal, legal holiday.

line numbers - Use figures and lowercase the word line in naming individual lines of a text: line 1, line 2. But: the first line, the 10th line.

lists - Use a colon after introductory text before a bulleted list. Lists should contain parallel structure and should only be punctuated if each bullet contains a complete sentence.

loath, loathe - Loath is the adjective; loathe is the verb: She is loath to leave. He loathes bureaucracy.

login, logon, logoff, log in - Login, logon and logoff are all nouns. Two words create the verb form.

long term, long-term - Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: We will win in the long term. He has a long-term assignment.

M Terms

mailman - The preferred term is letter carrier.

make up (v) makeup (adj.)

mantel, mantle - A mantel is a shelf; a mantle is a cloak.

Marine - Capitalize when referring to U.S. forces: the U.S. Marines, the Marines, the Marine Corps. Do not use the abbreviation USMC. Use uppercase when referring to a member of the U.S. Marines: He is a Marine.

marshal, marshaled, marshaling, Marshall - Marshal is the spelling for both the verb and the noun: Marilyn will marshal her forces. Erwin Rommel was a field marshal. Marshall is used in proper names: George C. Marshall, John Marshall, the Marshall Islands.

M.D. - A word such as physician or surgeon is preferred.

medevac - Acceptable abbreviation for medical evacuation, especially in referring to aircraft used to transport wounded military personnel.

Memorial Day - May 30, the holiday is now observed on the last Monday in May.

merchant marine - Lowercase in referring to ships of a nation used in commerce. Capitalize only in references to the organization of the Merchant Marines or the U.S. Merchant Marines.

mid - Use no hyphen unless a capitalized word follows: midair, mid-America, mid-Atlantic, mid-America, midsemester and midterm. But use a hyphen when mid- precedes a figure: mid-30s.

Middle East - The term applies to southwest Asia west of Pakistan and Afghanistan (Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi, Arabia, Syria, the Eastern part of Turkey known as Asia Minor, United Arab Emirates and Yemen) and northeastern Africa (Egypt and Sudan). Mideast is also acceptable, but Middle East is preferred.

middle initials - Use according to a person's preference; include initials in stories where it may help identify a specific individual. It may be dropped if a person doesn't use one or is publicly known without it.

middle names - Use them only with people who are publicly known that way (James Earl Jones) or to prevent confusion with people of the same name.

midnight - Do not put a 12 in front of it. It's part of the day that is ending, not the one just beginning.

military academies - Capitalize U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy. Retain capitalization if the U.S. is dropped: Air Force Academy, etc. Lowercase academy whenever it stands alone. Cadet is the proper title on the first reference for men and women enrolled in the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies. Midshipman is the proper title for men and women enrolled at the Naval Academy.

Military and Family Life Counseling Program - Use this complete term when referring to that program and capitalize as noted. When referring to the service or the individual counselors, use lower case: You can learn more about military and family life counseling by visiting your Military and Family Support Center.

Military and Family Support Center - Capitalize as shown.

military life, military lifestyle - When referring to life as a military service or family member, use the preferred term military life. Avoid the term military lifestyle except for direct quotes.

Military OneSource - Always capitalize as shown. Never abbreviate as MOS; always write out the full term.

military titles - Capitalize a military rank when used as a formal title before an individual's name. On the first reference, use the appropriate title before the full name of the service member. In subsequent references, do not continue using the title before a name; use only the last name. Spell out and lowercase a title when it is substituted for a name: Gen. Lloyd Austin is the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. The general endorsed the idea. For plurals, add s to the principal element: Majs. Smith and Jones. The following are abbreviations, with the highest ranks listed first:

Commissioned officers
general - Gen.
lieutenant general- Lt. Gen.
major general - Maj. Gen.
brigadier general - Brig. Gen.
colonel - Col.
lieutenant colonel - Lt. Col.
major - Maj.
captain - Capt.
first lieutenant -1st Lt.
second lieutenant - 2nd Lt.

Warrant Officers
warrant officer (W01) - Warrant Officer
chief warrant officer two (CW2) - Chief Warrant Officer 2
chief warrant officer three (CW3) - Chief Warrant Officer 3
chief warrant officer four (CW4) - Chief Warrant Officer 4
chief warrant officer five (CW5) - Chief Warrant Officer 5

Enlisted personnel

sergeant major of the Army - Sgt. Maj. of the Army
command sergeant major - Command Sgt. Maj.
sergeant major - Sgt. Maj.
first sergeant - 1st Sgt.
master sergeant - Master Sgt.
sergeant first class - Sgt. 1st Class
staff sergeant - Staff Sgt.
sergeant - Sgt.
corporal - Cpl.
specialist - Spc.
private first class - Pfc.
private - Pvt.

Commissioned officers
admiral - Adm.
vice admiral - Vice Adm.
rear admiral upper half - Rear Adm.
rear admiral lower half - Rear Adm.
captain - Capt.
commander - Cmdr.
lieutenant commander - Lt. Cmdr.
lieutenant - Lt.
lieutenant junior grade - Lt. j.g.
ensign - Ensign

Warrant officers
chief warrant officer - Chief Warrant Officer

Enlisted personnel
master chief petty officer of the Navy - Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy
master chief petty officer - Master Chief Petty Officer
senior chief petty officer - Senior Chief Petty Officer
chief petty officer - Chief Petty Officer
petty officer first class - Petty Officer 1st Class
petty officer second class - Petty Officer 2nd Class
petty officer third class - Petty Officer 3rd Class
seaman - Seaman
seaman apprentice - Seaman Apprentice
seaman recruit - Seaman Recruit

Ranks and abbreviations for commissioned officers are the same as those in the Army. Warrant officer ratings follow the same system used in the Navy. There are no specialist ratings.

Enlisted Personnel
sergeant major of the Marine Corps - Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps
sergeant major - Sgt. Maj.
master gunnery sergeant - Master Gunnery Sgt.
first sergeant - 1st Sgt.
master sergeant - Master Sgt.
gunnery sergeant - Gunnery Sgt.
staff sergeant - Staff Sgt.
sergeant - Sgt.
corporal- Cpl.
lance corporal - Lance Cpl.
private first class- Pfc.
private - Pvt.

Ranks and abbreviations for commissioned officers are the same as those in the Army. The Air Force does not have warrant officer ratings.

Enlisted personnel
chief master sergeant of the Air Force - Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force
chief master sergeant - Chief Master Sgt.
senior master sergeant - Senior Master Sgt.
master sergeant - Master Sgt.
technical sergeant - Tech. Sgt.
staff sergeant - Staff Sgt.
senior airman- Senior Airman
airman first class -Airman 1st Class
airman - Airman
airman basic - Airman

for retired officers - A military rank may be used in first reference before the name of an officer who has retired if it is relevant to a story. Do not, however, use the military abbreviation Ret. Instead, use retired just as former would be used before the title of a civilian: They invited retired Army Gen. John Smith.

firefighters, police officers - Use the abbreviations listed here when a military-style title is used before the name of a firefighter or police officer outside a direct quotation. Add police or fire before the title if needed for clarity: police Sgt. William Smith, fire Capt. David Jones. Spell out titles such as detective that are not used in the armed forces.

military treatment facility - Use this term as opposed to medical treatment facility.

military units - Use Arabic figures and capitalize the key words when linked with the figures: 1st Infantry Division, 7th Fleet.


millions, billions - Use figures with million and billion in all except casual uses: I'd like to make a billion dollars. But: The nation has 1 million citizens. I need $7 billion.

minuscule - not miniscule

minus sign - Use a hyphen not a dash, but use the word minus if there is any danger of confusion.

mishap - A minor misfortune. People are not killed in mishaps.

Miss - Use this courtesy title only in direct quotations or after the first reference (first and last name, no title) when a woman specifically requests it.

mix up, mix-up - Mix up is the verb form; mix-up is adjective form.

mom - Use uppercase when the noun substitutes for a name as a term of address: Hi, Mom!


months - Capitalize the names of months in all uses. When a month is used with a specific date, abbreviate only Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov. and Dec. Spell out when using alone or with a year alone. When a phrase lists only a month and a year, do not separate them with commas. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas: January 1972 was a cold month. Jan. 2 was the coldest day of the month. Her birthday is May 20, 1947.

monuments - Capitalize the popular names of monuments and similar public attractions: Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, Leaning Tower of Pisa, etc.

more than - When referring to numbers, more than is preferred. Over refers to spatial relationships. See over.

mother-in law, mothers-in-law

Mother Nature

Mountain Standard Time - MST and Mountain Daylight Saving Time - MDT.

Mountain States - As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the eight are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

mouse, mice - Use mice as the plural form of hand-held computer-input devices.

Ms. - This is the spelling and punctuation for all uses of the courtesy title, including direct quotations. There is no plural form. If several women prefer Ms., must be listed in a series, repeat Ms. for each name.

Muslims - The preferred term is to describe followers of Islam.

myriad - Note that the word is not followed by of: The myriad books in the library.

N Terms

names - In general, use only last names on the second reference. When it is necessary to distinguish between two people who use the same last name, as in married couples or siblings, use the first and last name. In stories involving juveniles, generally refer to them on second reference by surname if they are 16 or older and by first name if they are 15 or younger. Exceptions would be if they are involved in a serious crime or are athletes or entertainers.


national anthem - Lowercase, but The Star Spangled Banner.

National Guard - Capitalize when referring to U.S. or state-level forces, or foreign forces that is the formal name: the National Guard, the Guard, the Iowa National Guard, National Guard troops, the Iraqi National Guard. On second reference, the guard. When referring to an individual in a National Guard unit, use National Guardsman: He is a National Guardsman. Lowercase guardsman when it stands alone.

nationalist - Lowercase when referring to a partisan of a country. Capitalize only when referring to alignment with a political party for which this is a proper name.

nationalities and races - Capitalize the proper names of nationalities, people, races, tribes, etc.: Arab, Arabic, African, American, Caucasian, Cherokee, Chinese, Eskimo, Eskimos, French Canadian, Japanese, Jew, Jewish, Nordic, Sioux, Swede, etc.


Native American - Acceptable for those in the U.S. Follow the person's preference. Where possible, be precise and use the name of the tribe: Lakota Sioux, Cherokee; He was a Navajo commissioner.

NATO - Acceptable in all references for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

nautical mile - It equals 1 minute of arc of the earth or 6,076.11549 feet. To convert to approximate statute miles, multiply the number of nautical miles by 1.15.

naval, navel - Use naval in copy pertaining to the Navy. A navel is a bellybutton. A navel orange is so named because it has a small depression, like a navel.

Navy - Capitalize when referring to U.S. forces: the U.S. Navy, the Navy, Navy policy. Do not use the abbreviation USN. Lowercase when referring to the naval forces of other nations: the British navy.

- No hyphen; in the medical sense, it means that a person can see well at close range but has difficulty seeing objects at a distance.

neither-nor, either-or - see either-or, neither-nor.


New England - Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

eNews or eNewsletter - No hyphen and written as one word.

newspaper names - Capitalize the in a newspaper name if that is the way the publication prefers to be known. Do not place the name in quotes. Lowercase the before the newspaper names if a story mentions several papers, some of which use the as part of the name and some of which do not. Where the location is needed but is not part of the official name, use parentheses: The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.

New Year's, New Year's Day, New Year's Eve - Capitalize the day, but lowercase: What will the new year bring?


no cost – Use this term when communicating to a leadership audience about Military OneSource services for eligible individuals. Specifically, it should be used when writing content for leaders pertaining to Military OneSource policy or the Military OneSource contract. When used as an adjective, the term should be hyphenated (no-cost services). When writing content about Military OneSource services for service and family members and service providers, use the term free.

non- The use of prefixes apply, but in general, do not hyphenate when forming a compound word that does not have special meaning and can be easily understood when not is used before the base word. However, use a hyphen before a proper noun or in awkward combinations, such as non-nuclear.


noncombat, noncombatant

Non-medical counseling  - Confidential non-medical counseling is offered through both Military OneSource and the Military and Family Life Counseling Program, and is intended to prevent the development or exacerbation of lifestyle conditions that may compromise military and family readiness. It is designed to address issues such as improving relationships at home and work, stress management, adjustment issues (returning from a deployment), marital problems, parenting, grief and loss issues, and other military-related topics. Non-medical counseling is short-term and solution-focused. Note: When used in titles, capping is as follows: Non-medical Counseling


noon - Do not put a 12 in front of it.

no one

North Atlantic Treaty Organization - NATO is acceptable in all references.

Northeast region - As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the nine-state region is broken into two divisions - the New England states and the Mid-Atlantic states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont (the New England states), and New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania (the Middle Atlantic states).

numerals - A numeral is a figure, letter, word or group of words expressing a number. Roman numerals use the letters I, V, X, L, C, D and M. Use Roman numerals for wars and to show personal sequence for animals and people: World War II, Native Dancer II, King George VI, Pope John XXIII. Arabic numbers use the figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0. The figures 1, 2, 10 and the corresponding words - one, two and ten are called cardinal numbers. The term ordinal numbers applies to 1st, 2nd, 10th, 101st, first, second, tenth, one hundred first, etc.

Follow these guidelines in using numerals:

  • Sentence start - Spell out a numeral at the beginning of a sentence. If necessary, recast the sentence. There is one exception: a numeral that identifies a calendar year.
  • Casual uses - Spell out casual expressions: A thousand times no! Thanks a million. He walked a quarter of a mile.
  • Proper names - Use words of numerals according to an organization's practice: 3M, Twentieth Century Fund, Big Ten.
  • Fractions - see the fractions entry
  • Decimals - see the decimals entry
  • Figures or words - For ordinals, spell out first through ninth when they indicate sequence in time or location: first base, the First Amendment; He was first in line. Starting with 10th, use figures. For cardinals, you'll need to consult the AP Stylebook's specific entries.

Other uses - For uses not covered by these listings, spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for 10 and above. Typical examples: They had three sons and two daughters. They have a fleet of 10 station wagons and two buses. She ran four miles and he walked 11. In a series, continue to follow the appropriate guidelines: They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97 hamsters. They had four four-room houses, 10 three-room houses and 12 10-room houses.

Nuremberg - Use this spelling for the city in Germany, instead of Nuernberg, in keeping with wide-spread usage.

O Terms

obscenities, profanities, vulgarities - Do not use them in stories unless they are a critical part of the story and are part of direct quotations. There must be a compelling reason to use them. Try to find a way to give the reader a sense of what was said without using the specific word or phrase.

  • If a profanity, obscenity or vulgarity must be used, flag the story at the top with an editor's note: Eds: Story includes vulgarity (or graphic content) etc. Confine the offending language in quotation marks to a single paragraph that can be deleted easily by editors who don't want to use it.
  • In reporting words that would use the words god or damn, lowercase god and use the following forms: damn, damn it, goddamn it. Do not change damn it to darn it.
  • If a full quote containing an obscenity, profanity or vulgarity can't be dropped, but there is no compelling reason for the offensive language, use only the initial letter and replace the offensive word with hyphens.
  • In some stories or scripts, it may be better to replace the offensive word with a generic descriptive in parentheses: (vulgarity) or (obscenity).
  • When the subject matter of a story may be considered offensive, but the story does not contain quoted profanity, obscenities or vulgarities, flag the story at the top: Eds: Story may be offensive to some readers.

occur, occurred, occurring, occurrence


odd- - Follow with a hyphen: odd-looking, odd-numbered.

office - Capitalize office when it is part of an agency's formal name: Office of Management and Budget. Lowercase in all other uses, including phrases such as the office of the attorney general, the U.S. attorney's office.


offline - No hyphen.

off-, -off - Follow the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Hyphenate if not listed there. Some commonly used words with the hyphen: off-color, off-peak, off-white, send-off.

off-site - Use the hyphen, also on-site.

OK, OK'd, OK'ing, Oks - Do not use okay.

on - Do not use on before a date or day of the week when its absence would not lead to confusion, except at the beginning of a sentence: The meeting will not be held Monday. He will be inaugurated Jan. 20. On Sept. 3, the committee will meet to discuss the issue. Use on to avoid an awkward juxtaposition on a date and proper name: John met Mary on Monday. He told Smith on Tuesday that the bill was doomed. And use on to avoid confusion: The House killed on Tuesday a bid to raise taxes.

one- - Hyphenate when used in writing fractions: one-half, one-third. Use phrases such as a half or a third if precision is not intended.

online - One word in all cases for the computer connection term.

oral, verbal, written - Use oral to refer to spoken words: He gave an oral response. Use written to refer to words committed to paper: We had a written agreement. Use verbal to compare words with some other form of communication: His tears revealed the sentiments that his poor verbal skills could not express.

ordinal numbers - see numerals.

organizations and institutions - Capitalize the full names of organization and institutions: the American Medical Association; First Presbyterian Church; General Motors Corp. Retain capitalization if Co., Corp. or similar word is deleted from the full formal name: General Motors. Capitalize the names of major subdivisions: the Pontiac Motor Division of General Motors. Use lowercase for internal elements: the board of directors for General Motors.

Orient, Oriental - Do not use when referring to East Asian nations and their peoples. Asian is the acceptable term for inhabitants of these regions.

outbreak - For disease references, reserve for larger numbers of an illness, not a few cases.


over - It generally refers to spatial relationships: The plane flew over the city. More than is preferred with numerals: Their salaries went up more than $100 a week.

Oval Office - The White House office of the president.

overall, overalls - A single word as an adjective or adverb: Overall, the Democrats succeeded. Overall policy. The word for the garment is overalls.

P Terms

page numbers - Use figures and capitalize page when used with a figure. When the letter is appended to the figure, capitalize it but do not use a hyphen: Page 1, Page 10, Page 20A. There is one exception: It's a Page One story.

palate, palette, pallet - Palate is the roof of the mouth. A palette is an artist's paint board. A pallet is a bed. A pallet is also used for loading items and when shipping gear: The bags are palletized.

parallel, paralleled, paralleling

parallels - Use figures and lowercase to identify the imaginary locator lines from east to west. They are measured in units of 0 to 90 degrees north or south of the equator: 4th parallel north, 89th parallel south. See latitude and longitude.

parentheses () - In general, use parentheses around logos as shown in datelines, but otherwise use them sparingly. Parentheses are jarring to the reader and impact text readability. The temptation to use parentheses is a clue that the sentence is becoming contorted. Try to write the sentence another way and if the sentence must contain incidental material, commas and dashes are frequently much more effective.

part time, part-time - Hyphenate when used as a compound modifier: She works part time. She has a part-time job.


patrolman, patrolwoman - Police officer is preferred.

people, persons - Use person when speaking of an individual: One person waited for the bus. The word people is preferred to persons in all plural forms: Thousands of people attended the fair.

Percent - One word, spell out in all uses. Use figures for percent and percentages: 1 percent, 60 percent. For fractions, use decimals: 2.5 percent. For a range: 12 to 15 percent; for amounts less than 1 percent, precede the decimal with a zero: The cost of living rose 0.6 percent.

Persian Gulf - Use this long-established name for the body of water off the southern coast of Iran. Some Arab countries call it the Arabian Gulf. Don't use the term unless in direct quotation.

personification - Capitalize them: Grim Reaper, Father Time, Mother Nature, Old Man Winter, etc.

-persons - Do not use coined words such as chairperson or spokesperson in regular text. Instead, use chairman, chairwoman, spokesman and spokeswoman. Or if applicable, use a neutral word such as leader or representative.

Ph.D, Ph.Ds - The preferred form is to say a person holds a doctorate and name the individual's area of specialty.


Pinterest - A social network in which users collect and share images from the Web in theme-based collections, also known as pinboards or simply boards. Images that are shared or pinned on Pinterest are sometimes referred to as pins.

post- - Follow Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, usage. Hyphenate if not listed there. Some words without the hyphen: postdate, postgame, postelection, postgraduate, postscript, postoperative.

premiere - The first performance.

premier, prime minister - These two titles are used interchangeably in translating to English the title of an individual who is the first minister to a national government that has a council of ministers. Prime minister is the correct title throughout the Commonwealth.

president - Capitalize president only as a formal title before one or more names: President Barack Obama, President Abraham Lincoln, Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Lowercase all other uses. Use the first and family name in the first reference; use only the last name in second reference.

presidential - Lowercase unless part of a proper name.

President's Day - Not adopted by the federal government as the official name of Washington's Birthday, some federal agencies, states and local governments use the term to jointly recognize the contributions of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, both born in February.

prince, princess - Capitalize when used as a royal title before a name; lowercase when used alone: Prince Harry, the prince.

principal, principle - Principal is a noun and adjective meaning someone or something first in rank, authority or importance. She is the school principal. The principal is your pal. Money is the principal problem. Principle is a noun that means a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force: They fought for the principle of fair trade.

prisoner(s) of war - POW(s) is acceptable on the second reference. Hyphenate when used as compound modifier: A prisoner-of-war trial.

prison, jail - Do not use these words interchangeably. Prison is a generic term that may be applied to the maximum security facility known as penitentiaries and medium security facilities know as correctional institutions. A jail is typically used to confine people serving sentences for misdemeanors, awaiting trial or sentencing on either felony or misdemeanor charges and people confined for civil matters.

privacy - Do not identify juveniles under the age of 18 who are accused of crime, even if they have been so identified by other news media. Do not identify, through text or images, juveniles who have been witnesses to crimes. Do not identify, through text or images, persons who say they have been sexually assaulted. Exceptions may be made in extraordinary cases. For imagery guidelines, consult with MCO Communications Office staff.

pro - Use a hyphen when coining words that denote support for something: pro-labor, pro-peace, pro-business, pro-chocolate. No hyphen when pro is used in other senses: profile, produce, pronoun, proactive, etc.

professor - Never abbreviate. Use lowercase before a name, but capitalize Professor Emeritus as conferred title before a name. Do not continue in a second reference unless it's part of a quotation.


prophecy, prophesy - Prophecy is the noun; prophesy is the verb form of the word.

PT boat - Acceptable in all references for patrol torpedo boat, a small, fast-attack vessel used by the U.S. Navy in WWII.

Puerto Rico - Do not abbreviate.

Q Terms

Q-and-A format - Use Q-and-A within the body of a story.

queen - Capitalize only when used before the name of the royalty: Queen Elizabeth II. Continue in the second references that use the queen's given name: Queen Elizabeth. Lowercase when queen stands alone. Capitalize in plural uses: Queens Elizabeth and Victoria.

quotations in the news - Never alter quotations even to correct minor grammatical errors or word usage. Casual minor errors may be removed and noted by the use of ellipses, but this should be rare and done with extreme caution. In general, avoid fragmentary quotes. Remember, too, that absent context, you may misquote someone.

Quran - The preferred spelling of the Muslim holy book. Use the spelling Koran only if preferred by a specific organization or in a specific title or name.

R Terms

rack, wrack - The noun rack applies to various types of framework; the verb form means to arrange on a rack, to torture or torment: He was placed on the rack. She racked her brain. The noun, wrack, means ruin and destruction and is generally confined to the phrase wrack and ruin.

radio - Capitalize and use before a name to indicate an official or state-funded broadcast voice: Radio Free Europe, Radio France International. Lowercase and place after the name when indicating that the information was obtained from broadcasts in a city: Mexico City radio.

radio station - Use lowercase: radio station WHHY.

Ramadan - The Muslim holy month, a period of daily fasting from sunrise to sunset ending with the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. In Afghanistan, it is pronounced Rahm-i-zan.

ratios - Use figures and hyphens: the ratio was 2-to-1, a ratio of 2-to-1, a 2-1 ratio. Always use the word ratio or another explanation to avoid confusion with actual figures.

ravage, ravish - To ravage is to wreak great destruction or devastation: Union troops ravaged Atlanta. To ravish is to abduct, rape or carry away with emotion: Soldiers ravished the women.

re- The rules of prefixes apply. In general, use a hyphen if a prefix ends with a vowel and the word that follows begins with a vowel: re-elect, re-election, re-emerge, re-employ, re-enact, re-enlist, re-enter, re-entry, re-equip, re-establish, re-examine.


recur, recurred, recurring - not reoccur.

refugee - A person who is forced to leave his or her home or country to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. Use this word with care as refugee status is conferred by official government agencies: the people fleeing Haiti in 1994 were designated as migrants, not refugees.

religious affiliation: Capitalize the names and the related terms applied to members of the orders: He is a member of the Society of Jesus. He is a Jesuit.

religious titles - The first reference to a clergyman or clergywoman should include a capitalized title before the individual's name. Use the term the Rev. or Dr. only if the individual has an earned doctoral degree and reference to the degree is relevant. Note, that divinity degrees are often honorary. On second reference (unless requested by the individual), use only the last name. Use Rabbi before a name on the first reference; on second reference, use only the last name. For nuns, always use sister or Mother, if applicable; use a surname in the second reference.

reluctant, reticent - Reluctant means unwilling to act: He is reluctant to enter the primary. Reticent means unwilling to speak: The candidate's husband is reticent.

reserve - Capitalize when referring to the U.S. Armed Forces, as in Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve. Also capitalize when referring to the Reserve Component. Lowercase the plural form reserves in all uses.

Reserve Component - Refers to all reserve forces of the United States, including the National Guard (and technically, the ROTC). Use uppercase in all uses.

Reserve Officers' Training Corps - ROTC is acceptable in all references. When the service is specific, use Army ROTC, Navy ROTC, or Air Force ROTC. Do not use AROTC, NROTC or AFROTC.

reservist - Use lowercase in all references except when starting a sentence.

resume - Use this term without the accents when referring to a work history summary.

retweet - The practice on Twitter of forwarding a message or link from someone else to your followers. Users can either formally retweet to make the forwarded message appear exactly as written by the original user or use the informal convention of RT @username: to share the tweet and edit or add comment. Spelled out in all references, though common usage on Twitter abbreviates to RT. If you amend the tweet before forwarding, use the abbreviation MT for modified tweet.

room numbers - Use figures and capitalize room when used with a figure: Room 2, Room 211.

S Terms

sailor - Use lowercase when referring to a member of the U.S. Navy.

saint - Abbreviate as St. in the names of saints, cities and other places: St. Jude; St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Lawrence Seaway. Two variations are Saint John for the city in New Brunswick and St. Johns, the city in Newfoundland, both in Canada.

SAM, SAMs - Acronym for surface-to-air missiles; SAM is acceptable on the second reference.

same-sex couple - When developing content for MC&FP websites, applications and epublications, such as the Military OneSource eNewsletter, this term is appropriate as are the terms partner or partners. When referring specifically to DoD policy, the official term same-sex domestic partner should be used. In direct quotes, regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

same-sex domestic partner - When referring specifically to DoD policy, the official term same-sex domestic partner should be used. When developing content for MC&FP websites, applications and epublications, such as the Military OneSource eNewsletter, the softer term same-sex couple or partners may be used. In direct quotes, regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

Saudi Arabia - Use Saudi when referring to the people or culture of Saudi Arabia.

scheme - Do not use as a synonym for plan or project (though it is in the Queen's English).

Scot, Scots, Scottish - A native of Scotland is a Scot. The people are the Scots. Something or someone from Scotland is Scottish.

seasons - Use lowercase when referencing spring, summer, fall, autumn and winter and in derivatives such as springtime unless part of a formal name: Minnesota Winter Carnival, the Summer Olympics, etc.

Second Lady - As an exception to the AP Stylebook, Second Lady is capitalized as a formal title when used before a name. When referring specifically to Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, it is also appropriate to refer to her as Dr. Biden.

secretary-general - Use a hyphen. Capitalize as a formal title before a name.

secretary of state - Capitalize as a formal title before a name.

semiannual - Twice a year; a synonym for biannual.

Senate - Capitalize all specific references to governmental legislative bodies.

service affiliation - As a general rule, put service affiliation before rank. Do not use when it is obvious: Gen. John T. Smith, commander of the Air Force Space Command. However, always use it for people in unified combatant commands - Marine Corps Maj. John D. Smith, a U.S. Central Command spokesman - and in any other case where the affiliation would not be obvious to people with little knowledge of the military rank structure or the service in general. Use the service even with ranks used only in that service such as lance corporal, gunnery sergeant, sergeant first class, etc. While the person's service affiliation would be obvious to people with that level of knowledge, Military Community and Family Policy stories should be clear to any reader.

service, services - Use lowercase in all references.

serviceman, servicewoman, servicemen, servicewomen - One word; use lowercase in all references.

service member - Written as two words, use lowercase in all references. One exception is if the term "servicemember" is part of an official title such as the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Servicemembers Group Life Insurance or the Office of Servicemembers Affairs.

shall, will - Use shall to express determination: We shall overcome; We shall not be moved.

she - Do not use in references to ships or nations. Use it instead.

Shiite - The spelling for this branch of Islam. Plural is Shiites. The alternate spelling Shia is acceptable in quotes.


Skype - A service that allows users to communicate by voice, video and instant message over the Internet. Skype is used informally as a verb for using the service, particularly when communicating on video.

slash - Acceptable in descriptive phrases such as 24/7/365 or 9/11, but otherwise confine use to special situations such as fractions or denoting the ends of lines in poetry.

soldier - Use lowercase when referring to a member of the U.S. Army.

South - As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 16-state region is broken into three divisions. The East South Central states are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee. The South Atlantic states include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. The West South Central states are Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

spam, Spam - Use spam in references to unsolicited commercial or bulk email. Spam is a trademark for a canned meat product that is made in Minnesota and very popular in Hawaii.

special needs - Use the phrase family member with special needs as opposed to special needs family member. The needs do not define the individual.

state names - Spell out the names of the 50 United States. Use the two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations only with full addresses, including the ZIP code.

Place one comma between the city and the state name and another comma after the state name except at the ending of the sentence.

stationary, stationery - Stationary means to stand still. Stationery is writing paper.

stealth - When used in conjunction with military aircraft, ships and vehicles that are masked from various types of electronic detection. Like the cruise missile, always use lowercase without quotation marks.

stepbrother, stepfather, stepsister, stepmother - In all uses, no hyphen.

sub- - The rule of prefixes apply. In general, use no hyphen: subbasement, subcommittee, subculture, subdivision, submachine gun, subzero.

Supreme Court of the United States - Capitalize U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court when the U.S. designation is unnecessary.

T Terms

tablet - A touch-screen device, such as an Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire or Google Nexus 7, that can be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or cellular data networks.

tailspin - One word, no hyphen.

tail wind - Two words, no hyphen.

take-home pay

take off, takeoff - To take off is a verb; takeoff is the noun and adjective form of the word.

take over, takeover - To take over is the verb; takeover is the noun and adjective form of the word.

Taliban - Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until 2002. The Taliban continue to operate as an insurgent force in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Taps - Use uppercase without quotation marks for the bugle call for lights out and sounded at military funerals.

TAPS - Is an acronym for the military service organization, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.



tea party - Use lowercase for the populist movement in the United States that espouses libertarian and conservative philosophy, including smaller government, lower taxes and reduced government spending.

team - Use singular verb and pronoun it when referring to the team as a collective group. Use the plural form when addressing the team name: The Redskins are prepared for a more successful second half of the season.


tear gas - Use two words.

teen, teenager, teenage - Do not use teen-aged.

telephone numbers - Use figures. Use hyphens, not periods. For readability, keep phone numbers on one line of text. The form: 212-555-1234. For international numbers use 011, the country code, the city code and the telephone number: 011-44-20-7535-0000. The form for toll-free numbers: 800-111-1000. If an extension number is needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 212-621-1234, ext.53.


temperature - Use figures for all except for zero. Use words, not figures to express temperatures below zero: Today's low was minus 10. Yesterday's low was 10 below zero.

Ten Commandments - Do not abbreviate or use figures.

tenfold - One word, no hyphen

Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Day - Use upper case in all references.

that - Use the conjunction that to introduce a dependent clause if the sentence looks or sounds awkward without it. There are no hard and fast rules, but in general and when in doubt, include that.

that, which - Use that and which in referring to inanimate objects and to animals without a name. Use that for essential clauses, important to the meaning of a sentence and without commas: I remember the day that I joined the Navy. Use which for nonessential clauses, where there the pronoun is less necessary: The Army's football team, which was in first place 20 years ago, is in last place. Note that a which construction is always surrounded by commas.

theater - Use lowercase and this spelling unless the official name is theatre. For descriptions of specific theater of operations, such as the European Theater, use uppercase, but lowercase when using only the word theater.

their, there, they're - Their is a possessive pronoun: It belongs to them; it's their money. There is an adverb denoting direction. They're is a contraction for they are. Watch your spell check carefully as it may change your spelling from they're to there (which it did in preparation of this document).

thumbs-up, thumbs-down

till - Use until. Till is what you do with your land prior to plowing.

time element - Use the days of the week and not the generic today or tonight in print copy. Use Monday, Tuesday, etc. before or after the current date. Avoid redundancies such as last Tuesday.

time of day - Use exact time of day that an event has happened or will happen if the time is critical to the story. Use clock time and always use Eastern time followed by EDT or EST. Use time zone abbreviations, EST, CDT, PST, etc., after a clock time if it is likely to affect the readership. Avoid use of the 2400-hour clock (military time); use only when part of a quote.

times - Use figures except for noon and midnight. Use a colon to separate hours from minutes: 1 a.m., 11 p.m., 11:30 a.m.

time change - In 2014, Daylight Saving Time starts on Sunday, March 9, and ends on Sunday, Nov. 2. On Sunday, March 9, at 2 a.m., clocks are turned forward one hour to 3 a.m. and noted as daylight saving time (EDT, CDT, MDT, PDT). On Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 a.m., clocks are turned backward one hour to Sunday, Nov. 2, at 1 a.m., and noted as local standard time instead (EST, CST, MST, PST). In 2015, Daylight Saving Time will begin Sunday, March 8 and end Sunday, Nov. 1.

time sequence - Spell out: 50 hours, 23 minutes, 14 seconds.

time zones - Capitalize the full name of the time in force within a particular zone: Eastern Standard Time, Eastern Daylight Time, Central Standard Time, etc. Use lowercase for all but the region in short forms: the Eastern time zone, Mountain time, etc. The abbreviations EST, EDT, etc. are acceptable in the first reference when used in stories for the continental United States. Spell out when referencing Alaska, Hawaii and locations outside the contiguous United States.

titles - In general, confine capitalization to formal titles used directly before the individual's name. Use lowercase when used after the name and in second references: The pope gave his blessing.

ton - There are three types, who knew?! A short ton is equal to 2,000 pounds. A long ton, also known as a British ton, is equal to 2,240 pounds. A metric ton is equal to 1,000 kilograms or approximately 2,204.62 pounds.

total, totaled, totaling

trademark - In general, use a generic, equivalent term. Use capital letters if the trademark is essential to the story.

traffic, trafficked, trafficking

transfer, transferred, transferring

travel, traveled, traveling, traveler

- Capitalize when used as a formal title immediately before the individual's name.

troop, troops, troupe - Use sparingly and with caution. Per AP, a troop, used in the singular form is a group of people, often military or animals. Troops mean several such groups. When the plural appears with a large number, however, it is understood to mean individuals. The less slang, more formal service member is preferred. Use troupe when referring to an ensemble of actors, dancers, singers, performers, etc.


tuberculosis - TB is acceptable on the second reference.

TV - Acceptable as a first reference for television.

20-something - The same construction applies for 30-something, 40-something, 50-something, etc.


two-by-four - Spell out when referring to the noun referring to the building lumber that is 2 inches thick by 4 inches wide.

U Terms

U-boat - A German submarine. All references to submarines should be submarine unless directly referring to a German vessel of WWI or WWII vintage.

ultra - The rules of prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen: ultramodern, ultrasonic, ultra violet.

Ultra - The codename for a WWII-era allied intelligence effort. A small group of code-breakers decrypted German, Italian and Japanese enemy communications. The project was declassified in 1974.

U.N. - The United Nations. Use periods U.N. for consistency with U.S. within texts. In headlines, use UN, without periods.

Uncle Sam

under- - The rules of prefixes apply, but in general no hyphen: underdog, underground, undersold.

underscore - Do not use the symbol in Internet addresses; write out the word and put in parentheses.

undersecretary - One word, lowercase unless preceding a name in a title.

under way, underway - Two words in most uses to describe an event or task that is in progress: The project is under way. The Navy's maneuvers are under way. Use one word when used as an adjective before a noun in the nautical sense: an underway flotilla.

Uniform Code of Military Justice - Use UCMJ in second reference.

Union - Capitalize when used as a proper name of the Northern states during the Civil War: The Union defeated the Confederacy.

unique - It means one of a kind. Avoid redundant uses such as rather unique, very unique or most unique.

United Kingdom - The abbreviation U.K. is acceptable. The United Kingdom consists of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain (or Britain) consists of England, Scotland and Wales. Ireland is independent of the United Kingdom. Use the terms U.K. and Great Britain with specificity.

United Nations - Abbreviate U.N. (no space). Use periods U.N. for consistency with U.S. within texts. In headlines, use UN, without periods.

United Service Organization - USO is acceptable in all references.

United States - Use the abbreviation U.S. in texts and US in headlines.

unprecedented - It means having no precedent, unheard of. Use with care.

-up - Follow the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Hyphenate if not listed there. When in doubt, look up as there are many inconsistencies: breakup, call-up, cleanup, cover-up, crackup, follow-up.

up- - The rules of prefixes apply, but in general no hyphen: upend, upgrade, uptown.

URL - An abbreviation we use without thinking for the Uniform Resource Locator. When the URL doesn't fit on one line, break into two or more lines without a hyphen or other punctuation. In printed or downloaded documents use the complete URL:

U.S. - The abbreviation is acceptable as a noun or adjective for the United States. Use the abbreviation U.S. in texts and US in headlines

USA - No periods or spaces in the abbreviated form of the United States of America.

U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard - or Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard. Capitalize in all uses when referring to U.S. forces.

U.S. Marshals Service - No apostrophe.

U.S. Postal Service - Use U.S. Postal Service or the Postal Service on first reference. Retain capitalization of Postal Service in subsequent references to the agency. Lowercase the service when it stands alone and in generic references to the agency: I went to the post office.

USS - For United States Ship, Steamer or Steamship, preceding the name of the vessel: the USS Iowa.

U-turn - Capitalize; used as a noun and adjective

V Terms

valley - Capitalize when part of a full name: the Tennessee Valley. Lowercase in plural uses: the Missouri and Mississippi valleys.

V-E Day - May 8, 1945, the day the surrender of Germany was announced, ending the European phase of WWII.


vernacular - The native language of a country or place. Terms not widely known should be explained when used.

verses - Lines in poetry

versus - Spell out in ordinary speech and writing: The proposal to revamp Obamacare versus Medicare. In short expressions, the abbreviation vs. is permitted: The issue of guns vs. butter has long been with us. In court cases, use the lowercase letter v: Brown v. the Board of Education, Marbury v. Madison.

Veterans Affairs - Formerly the Veterans Administration. It became a full Cabinet level in 1989 with the full title the Department of Veterans Affairs. Use VA (no periods) on the second reference.

Veterans Day - Formerly Armistice Day noting the signing of the WWI armistice Nov. 11, 1918.

- Use two words, vice admiral, vice chairman, vice consul. Capitalize in titles preceding the individual's name.

vice president - Capitalize vice president only as a formal title before one or more names: Vice President Joe Biden, Vice Presidents Dan Quayle and Gerald Ford. Use lowercase in all other references: The vice president said today that he is running for president. Do not drop the first name on the first reference; on second reference, use only the last name.

vice versa

videocassette recorder - VCR is acceptable in all references.


Vietnam War

VIP, VIPs - Acceptable in all references for very important person(s).

V-J Day - The day of victory for the Allied forces over Japan in WWII. It is cited as both Aug. 15, 1945, the day that fighting with Japan ended, and Sept. 2, 1945, the day that Japan officially surrendered.

voice mail - Two words.

W Terms

war - Capitalize as part of the name of a specific conflict: the Civil War, the War of 1812.

war horse, warhorse - Two words for a horse used in battle. Use one word to describe a veteran of many battles: He's a political warhorse.

warlike - One word, no hyphen.

warlord - One word, no hyphen.

Washington D.C. - Never abbreviate Washington when referring to the nation's capital. Use Washington D.C. or District of Columbia when the context requires distinction between the state and federal district.

Washington's Birthday - Capitalize birthday in references to the holiday.

weapons - Contrary to the AP Stylebook change, gun is NOT an acceptable term for any firearm. In military parlance, the word gun refers to artillery. Use the specific form: rifle, pistol, mortar, artillery, etc.

  • anti-aircraft - A cannon or other weapon designed for defense against air attack. The form: a 105 mm anti-aircraft gun.
  • artillery - A carriage-mounted cannon.
  • assault rifle, assault weapon - Terms for military or police-style weapons that are shorter than a conventional rifle and technically known as carbines. The precise definitions may vary from one law or jurisdiction to another. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, some make the distinction that assault rifle is a military weapon with a selector switch for firing in either fully automatic or semi-automatic mode from a detachable, 10- to 30-round magazine. Comparatively lightweight and easy to aim, this carbine was designed for tactical operations and is used by some law enforcement agencies. The form: an M16 assault rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

    An assault weapon is the civilian version of the military carbine with a similar appearance. This gun is semi-automatic, meaning one shot per trigger pull. Ammunition magazines ranging from 10 to 30 rounds or more allow rapid-fire capability. Other common characteristics include folding stock, muzzle flash suppressor, bayonet mount and pistol grip. Assault weapon sales were largely banned under federal law from 1994 to 2004 to curb gun crimes. The form: AR-15 carbine with military-style appearance

    • Each soldier carried an M16 assault rifle into combat, facing enemy troops armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
    • Politicians debated sales restrictions on assault weapons, including military-style AR-15 carbines for gun hobbyists.

  • automatic - A firearm that reloads automatically after each shot. The term should not be used to describe the rate of fire. To avoid confusion, specify fully automatic or semi-automatic rather than simply automatic. Give the type of weapon or model for clarity.
  • bolt-action rifle - A manually operated handle on the barrel opens and closes the breech, ejecting a spent round, loading another and cocking the weapon for triggering. Popular for hunting and target-shooting. Example: Remington 700. Some shotguns are bolt-action.
  • buckshot - See shot.
  • bullet - The projectile fired by a rifle, pistol or machine gun. Together with metal casing, primer and propellant, it forms a cartridge.
  • caliber - A measurement of the diameter of the inside of a gun barrel except for most shotguns. Measurement is in either millimeters or decimal fractions of an inch. The word caliber is not used when giving the metric measurement. The forms: a 9 mm pistol, a .22-caliber rifle.
  • cannon - A weapon, usually supported on some type of carriage, that fires explosive projectiles. The form: a 105 mm cannon. Plural is cannons.
  • carbine - A short, lightweight rifle, usually having a barrel length of less than 20 inches. The form: an M3 carbine.
  • cartridge - See bullet.
  • clip - A device to store multiple rounds of ammunition together as a unit, ready for insertion into the gun. Clips are generally used to load obsolete military rifles. Clip is not the correct term for a detachable magazine commonly used in modern military rifles, assault rifles, assault weapons, submachine guns and semi-automatic pistols. See magazine.
  • Colt - Named for Samuel Colt, it designates a make of weapon or ammunition developed for Colt handguns. The forms: a Colt .45-caliber revolver, .45 Colt ammunition.
  • fully automatic - A firearm that fires continuously as long as the trigger is depressed. Examples include machine guns and submachine guns.
  • gauge - The measure of the size of a shotgun. Gauge is expressed in terms of the number per pound of round lead balls with a diameter equal to the size of the barrel. The bigger the number, the smaller the shotgun. The forms: a 12-gauge shotgun, a .410 shotgun. The .410 actually is a caliber, but commonly is called a gauge. The ball leaving the barrel is 0.41" in diameter.
  • handgun - A pistol or a revolver.
  • howitzer - A cannon shorter than a gun of the same caliber employed to fire projectiles at relatively high angles at a target, such as opposing forces behind a ridge. The form: a 105 mm howitzer.
  • lever-action rifle - A handle on the stock ejects and loads cartridges and cocks the rifle for triggering. A firearm often associated with the Old West. Example: Winchester 94.
  • M1, M16 - These and similar combinations of a letter and figure(s) designate rifles used by the military. The forms: an M1 rifle, an M16 rifle.
  • machine gun - A fully automatic gun that fires as long as the trigger is depressed and bullets are chambered. Such a weapon is generally so large and heavy that it rests on the ground or a mount. A submachine gun is hand-held. The form: a .50-caliber Browning machine gun.
  • magazine - The ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a firearm. It may be fixed to the firearm or detachable. It is not a clip.
  • Magnum - A trademark for a type of high-powered cartridge with a larger case and a larger powder charge than other cartridges of approximately the same caliber. The form: a .357 Magnum, a .44 Magnum.
  • mortar - Device used to launch a mortar shell; it is the shell, not the mortar, that is fired. For military writing, use round, not shell.
  • musket - A heavy, large-caliber shoulder firearm fired by means of a matchlock, a wheel lock, a flintlock or a percussion lock. Its ammunition is a musket ball.
  • pistol - A handgun that can be a single shot or a semi-automatic. Differs from a revolver in that the chamber and barrel are one integral part. Its size is measured in calibers. The form: a .45-caliber pistol.
  • revolver - A handgun. Differs from a pistol in that cartridges are held in chambers in a cylinder that revolves through the barrel. The form: a .45-caliber revolver.
  • rifle - A firearm designed or made to be fired from the shoulder and having a rifled bore. It uses bullets or cartridges for ammunition. Its size is measured in calibers. The form: a .22-caliber rifle.
  • Saturday night special - A compact, relatively inexpensive handgun.
  • semi-automatic - A firearm that fires only once for each pull of the trigger. It reloads after each shot. The form: a semi-automatic rifle, a semi-automatic weapon, a semi-automatic pistol. The hyphen is an exception to general guidance against hyphenating words formed with semi-.
  • shell - The word applies to military or naval ammunition and to shotgun ammunition. For small arms, bullet or round is the common term for ammunition.
  • shot - Small lead or steel pellets fired by shotguns. A shotgun shell usually contains 1 to 2 ounces of shot. Do not use shot interchangeably with buckshot, which refers only to the largest shot sizes.
  • shotgun - A firearm typically used to fire small spherical pellets called shot. Shotguns usually have a smooth bore barrel, but some contain a rifled barrel, which is used to fire a single projectile. Size is measured according to gauge, except for the .410, which is measured according to caliber, meaning the ball leaving the barrel is 0.41" in diameter. The form: a 12-gauge shotgun, a .410 shotgun.
  • submachine gun - A lightweight fully automatic gun firing handgun ammunition.

weather - See the AP Stylebook.

web - Use lowercase, effective with the AP Stylebook change announced, April 3, 2016.

website - A location on the World Wide Web that maintains one or more pages at a specific address. Also, webcam, webcast, and webmaster. In the short form as separate words, use the Web, Web page and Web feed.



- Use figures: The baby weighed 7 pounds, 9 ounces.

West - As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 13-state region with two divisions. The eight Mountain division states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. The five Pacific division states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

Western - Capitalize for the film or book genre, but use lowercase for the style of music known as country.

wheelchair - One word.




who's, whose - Who's is a contraction for who is, not a possessive: Who's there? Whose is the possessive: I don't know whose coat that is.

who, whom
- Who is the pronoun used for references to human beings and animals with a name: The woman who rented the room left the door open. Whom is used when someone is the object of the verb or preposition: The woman to whom the room was rented left the door open. Whom do you wish to see?

-wide - No hyphen: citywide, countrywide, nationwide, statewide, worldwide.

wide- - Usually hyphenated: wide-awake, wide-angled, wide-eyed, wide-open.

wife, husband - Wife or husband is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested. For same-sex couples, when developing web content, use same-sex couple, or partner. When referring to the policy, use the official terminology, same-sex domestic partner. In direct quotes, regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested.

winter, wintertime

-wise - No hyphen when it means in the direction of or with regard to: clockwise, lengthwise, otherwise. Avoid contrived combinations such as moneywise. Penny-wise is hyphenated because it's a compound adjective.

WMD - An acceptable second reference for weapons of mass destruction.

women - Women should receive the same treatment as men in all areas of coverage. Physical descriptions, sexist references, demeaning stereotypes and condescending phases should not be used. Use the same standards for men and women when deciding to include specific mention of personal appearance or marital and family situation.


workbook, workday, workforce, workhorse, workplace, workweek - No hyphen.

World War I, World War II



would, should - Use would to express a customary action: In the winter we would spend as much time on the ski slopes as possible. Use should to express an obligation: We should help the poor.

wracked - The preferred spelling when used to say a person is wracked with doubt or wracked with pain.

X Terms

Xerox - A trademark for a brand of photocopy machine. Do not use as a verb - use photocopy.

X-ray - Use for both the process and the radiation particles (verb and noun, respectively).

Y Terms

Yahoo - A trademark for an online computer service. Do not use the exclamation point in the formal corporate name.



years - Use figures, without commas: 1973. When a phrase refers to a month, day and year, set off the year with commas: Feb. 14, 2014, is the target date. Use an s without an apostrophe to indicate spans of decades or centuries: the 1980s, the 1900s. Years are the lone exception to the general rule that numerals will not be used to start a sentence: 1971 was a very good year

Yellow Pages - Capitalize in describing the business telephone directory.

yesterday - Use only in direct quotations and in phrases that do not refer to a specific day: Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Use the day of the week in all other cases.


youth - Applicable to boys and girls from age 13 until the 18th birthday. Use a man or woman for individuals 18 and older.


yule, yuletide

Z Terms

zero, zeros


ZIP code - Use all caps for ZIP for Zoning Improvement Plan, but always use lowercase for the word code. Run the five digits together without a comma, and do not put a comma between the state name and the ZIP code: New York, NY 10020.