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 a 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 (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).

*The commonly known abbreviations and acronyms that follow are acceptable on first reference without introduction (although there may be occasions when fully writing out the terms would be preferable):

  • AAEFS for Army and Air Force Exchange Service
  • CGX for Coast Guard Exchange
  • CONUS for continental United States
  • DEERS for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System
  • DIMS for Defense Installation Messaging System (This acronym would appear only in documents and communications with installation DIMS managers.)
  • EFMP for Exceptional Family Member Program
  • ID or military ID instead of "identification card" or "military identification card," respectively
  • JAG for judge advocate general
  • LES for Leave and Earnings Statement
  • MCX for Marine Corps Exchange
  • MWR for Morale, Welfare and Recreation
  • NEX for Navy Exchange
  • OCONUS for outside the continental United States
  • PCS for permanent change of station
  • PT or PRT for physical training or physical readiness training
  • PTSD for post-traumatic stress disorder
  • PX for Post Exchange
  • Space-A for space-available flights or travel program

aboard vs. on board – The 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 – Lowercase.

active duty, active-duty – 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. Do not hyphenate when the modifier is not already hyphenated in a cited title: In the “2021 Active Duty Spouse Survey,” PCS-related stress was reported as a significant factor.

advisor Not adviser.

Air Wing – 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 the aircraft name (Tomcat, Hornet, etc.). For news service story submissions, use regular text (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 the full name of the squadron on first reference. In subsequent references, abbreviate 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 a noun: He called all hands to the meeting. Hyphenate as an adjective/compound modifier: They attended the all-hands call.

allowances/pays – Capitalize the various types of allowances and pays when referencing them in tables, running text or social media posts. For example: Basic Allowance for Housing or Temporary Lodging Expense.

anchors aweigh – Not anchors away.

anti-aircraft, anti-submarine – Hyphenate.

app – The use of the word "app" (vs. "application") is appropriate on first use (and preferred).

armed forces – Capitalize only as a proper name (Armed Forces Day), as 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).