Use of Terms A-Z

Military Community and Family Policy writing guidance aligns with The Associated Press Stylebook with a few exceptions. Definitions of military-specific terms appear below, along with editorial guidance for certain commonly used words for MC&FP and our programs. See additional writing guidance in the Writing Best Practices section. Find program-specific guidance in the Program Content Guides section.


abbreviations, acronyms and brevity codes -

In general, avoid abbreviations, acronyms and brevity codes unless readers can easily recognize and understand them. Spell out on first reference, but do not follow with brevity code in parentheses or set off by dashes. Abbreviations and acronyms are acceptable in subsequent references.

An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase to represent the complete form: USMC (the United States Marine Corps). Abbreviations differ from acronyms because users pronounce each individual letter.

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 that has as its sole purpose the shortening of messages for use in military and other communications: Divert (Proceed to alternate mission/base).

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 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.

Active Component – Capitalize in all cases.

active duty, active-duty – Use lowercase 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.

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 use a letter(s) followed by a hyphen and number: SH-60B. Note: For print publications, italicize aircraft name (for example, Tomcat, Hornet, etc.) For News Service story submissions, use regular text (for example, Tomcat, Hornet, etc.).

air base – Use two words and do not abbreviate. Spell out the name of the base on first reference: Lackland Air Force Base. In subsequent references: the Air Force base, the air base or the base.

aircraft squadrons – Spell out full name of squadron on first reference. In subsequent references, use abbreviation and hyphenate.

aircrew, aircrew member – One word in each instance per Webster’s.

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.

anchors aweigh – Not anchors away.

anti-aircraft, anti-submarine – Hyphenate.

armed forces – Capitalize only as a proper name (Armed Forces Day), part of a title or following U.S., as in U.S. Armed Forces. Lowercase as a noun (the armed forces) or adjective (an armed forces member).