Writing Best Practices

This style guide provides writers with general principles and specific guidance for developing content for Military Community and Family Policy websites and applications, eLearning modules, print products such as guides or brochures, and conference materials. These guidelines follow those established by The Associated Press Stylebook and Webster’s New World College Dictionary. They also support the consistent use of Military OneSource’s brand voice in all communications.

You’ll find general direction in this portion of the guide, including instructions on capitalization, spelling, preferred usage and so on, along with many examples. Under Use of Terms A-Z, you'll find more specific instructions, with military-specific terms, acronyms, titles and so on listed alphabetically. When preparing to write any document, remember that our readers lead busy lives and many other resources and outlets compete for their time. Consider the following writing tips:

Write for your readers. Every piece — whether a news story, blog post or brochure — needs to tell readers:

  • What’s in it for them
  • What you want them to do
  • Why they should read it in the first place
  • Why they should read it NOW
  • Why they should read your piece instead of someone else’s

Use some basic techniques. Your readers are busy people seeking information. Use their time wisely.

  • Open with your main point.
  • Stick to one MAIN idea.
  • Focus on what your reader needs.
  • Be descriptive, but use short words and short sentences.
  • Spell out action explicitly (i.e., “Find Your School Liaison”).
  • Keep your lists parallel.
  • Ensure content does not assume a specific season.

Know your readers. It’s the only way they will understand you.

  • Who? What are the readers’ educational backgrounds, ages, genders, attitudes? What are the benefits and risks for readers?
  • When? When will the readers read your message? How much time will they spend on it? When do readers have to act?
  • Where? Where are readers in the chain of command? Where do readers do their work — in an office, in the field, at home? Where are they receiving the message and on what type of device or platform?
  • How? How interested are readers in the arrival of your message? How will readers feel about it?
  • Why? Why are you writing? Why should readers respond?