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.

S

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

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 Department of Defense policy, use the official term 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 is acceptable on request.

same-sex domestic partner – When referring specifically to Department of Defense policy, use the official term same-sex domestic partner. When developing content for MC&FP websites, applications and ePublications, such as the Military OneSource eNewsletter, it is acceptable to use the softer term same-sex couple or partners. In direct quotes, regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. It is acceptable to use spouse or partner on request.

school liaison – Use lowercase. Do not use the term “school liaison officer.”

Second Lady – As an exception to the AP Stylebook, capitalize Second Lady as a formal title when using before a name.

secretary of defense – Capitalize as a formal title before a name. Lowercase in other uses. With regard to the secretary of defense under President Biden, always use Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. Do not use Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. 

selected reserve – Lowercase.

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, MC&FP stories should be clear to any reader.

service, services – Lowercase all references to service or services. When referencing a specific military service, capitalize the term and use this order of precedence: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Department of Defense service provider, Department of Defense Expeditionary Civilian workforce. Use “U.S.” before service names only when the context is unclear without it.

serviceman, servicewoman, servicemen, servicewomen – One word; use lowercase in all references, but service member.

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 Servicemember Affairs.

soldier – Lowercase when referring to a member of the U.S. Army.

Space Force – Capitalize references to U.S. forces: the U.S. Space Force, the Space Force. Do not use USSF. Use this order of precedence for the Space Force and its seal: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard. Use “U.S.” before service names only when the context is unclear without it. Space Force service members are referred to as "guardians."

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