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.


DeCA – Acceptable for second and subsequent references for the Defense Commissary Agency. Note the lowercase "e" which is part of the acronym but doesn’t stand for a separate word.

department – See the AP Stylebook for the full listing of all government departments for first and subsequent references. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms when possible. A phrase such as the department is preferable in subsequent references because it is 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 – “U.S. Department of Defense” and “Department of Defense” refer to the proper name and legal entity of this cabinet-level government department. Reserve these for use in formal and official correspondence, documents, reports and testimony. In all other cases, use “Defense Department” on first reference.

The correct acronym for “Defense Department” is “DOD” with an uppercase “O” in the center; use on second reference after “Defense Department” or when the stand-alone acronym suffices depending upon use. Do NOT use “DoD.”

DODDS – Acceptable for second and subsequent references to Department of Defense Dependents Schools. Note the plurals and lack of apostrophe. DODDS and DOD Dependents Schools refer to the school system. Use Defense Department dependents school or schools when referring to any of the system’s schools in constructions that don’t use a formal name.

DODEA – Acceptable for second and subsequent references to Department of Defense Education Activity.

Department of Defense publications – When referencing Department of Defense publications, including directives, 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.

diversity – All the different characteristics and attributes of individuals from varying demographics that are consistent with the core values of the Department of Defense, integral to overall readiness and mission accomplishment, and reflective of the nation we serve. When creating content for Military Community and Family Policy, writers, designers and other team members should consider diversity and ensure that content represents a diverse audience in terms of age, race, differing abilities, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.

DMDC – Appropriate for all references to the organization formerly known as the Defense Manpower Data Center. Due to their broadening business, the agency shortened its name to DMDC.

Domestic Violence Prevention Month – MC&FP’s official name for this recognition.