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.

SAM, SAMs – Acronym for surface-to-air missiles; acceptable after the first reference.

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.

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

secretary-general – Use a hyphen. Capitalize as a formal title before a name.

secretary of state – Capitalize as a formal title before a name.

Senate – Capitalize all specific references to governmental legislative bodies.

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 – Use lowercase in all references.

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.

Skype – This service allows users to communicate by voice, video and instant message over the internet. Skype is an informal verb for using the service, especially for communicating via video.

slash – Acceptable in descriptive phrases such as 24/7/365 or 9/11, but otherwise confine use to special situations such as fractions or denoting the ends of lines in poetry.

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.

spam, Spam – Use spam in references to unsolicited commercial or bulk email. Spam is a trademark for a canned meat product that is made in Minnesota and very popular in Hawaii.

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

state – Lowercase. As in state law.

state names – Spell out the names of the 50 United States. Use the two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviations only with full addresses, including ZIP code. Place one comma between the city and the state name and another comma after the state name except at the ending of the sentence.

stealth – When using together with military aircraft, ships and vehicles, this means they are masked from electronic-detection methods. Always lowercase without quotation marks, as with cruise missile.