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.


mailman – The preferred term is mail carrier or letter carrier.

Marine – Capitalize references to U.S. forces: the U.S. Marines, the Marines, the Marine Corps. Do not use USMC. Uppercase when referring to a member of the U.S. Marines: She met a fellow Marine. Use “U.S.” before service names only when the context is unclear without it.

medevac – This is an acceptable form of medical evacuation, especially when referring to aircraft that transport wounded military personnel.

mental disorder – Not mental condition.

mental health – Not behavioral health. Do not use interchangeably with behavioral health.

merchant marine – Lowercase when referring to ships that nations use in commerce. Capitalize only when referring to the Merchant Marine organization or U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

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 and U.S. Naval Academy. Retain capitalization without “U.S.”: Air Force Academy, etc. Lowercase academy when it stands alone. Use cadet on first reference for men and women enrollees of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies. Use midshipman for men and women enrollees of the Naval Academy.

Military and Family Life Counseling Program – Use this complete term and capitalize as shown when referring to the program. When referring to the service or the individual counselors, lowercase: 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 Community and Family Policy digital properties – These are all MC&FP websites, applications, assets and resources, including the online platform and website.

Military Family Readiness System – The Military 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.

Military Funeral Honors Program – Capitalize as shown when referring to the program, which establishes procedures for requesting and rendering military funeral honors.

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. This is the program, inclusive of call center, specialty consultations, non-medical counseling, and online platform.

Military OneSource online platform – This encompasses all websites, applications and resources that have in the URL, to include all eNewsletters and social media platforms. – This is only the website.

military titles – Capitalize military ranks only when using as a formal title before a person’s name. On first reference, use the appropriate title before the full name of the service member. In subsequent references, use only the last name. Spell out and lowercase a title when using in the place of a name: Capt. James Smith gave the order. The general travels on Monday. For plurals, add s to the principal element: Majs. Smith and Jones. The following are abbreviations, with ranks in descending order:


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

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

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


Commissioned officer ranks and abbreviations follow the same system as the Army. Warrant officer ratings follow the same system as 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.


Commissioned officer ranks and abbreviations follow the same system as 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

Retired officers – Use a military rank on first reference before the name of an officer who has retired if it is relevant. Do not use the military abbreviation Ret. Spell out retired and use it in the same way as former would appear before a civilian title: They asked retired Army Gen. Robert Jones to speak.

Firefighters, police officers – Use the abbreviations in this section when using military-style titles before the name of a firefighter or police officer outside a direct quote. Add police or fire before the title as needed for clarity: police Sgt. Wendy Smith, fire Capt. Lee Williams. Spell out titles such as detective that do not appear in the lists for armed forces.

military treatment facility – Use this term instead of medical treatment facility.

military units – Use Arabic figures and capitalize key words when combining: 1st Infantry Division, 7th Fleet.

more than/over – Use more than instead of over to indicate greater numerical value. Paychecks went up more than $100 a week.

Muslims – The preferred term to describe followers of Islam.

My Military OneSource – This is the appropriate way to refer to the Military OneSource application.