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 guidance in this portion of the guide, including instruction on capitalization, spelling, preferred usage and so on, along with many examples. Under Terms A-Z, you’ll find more specific instruction 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 reader. Every piece – whether a news story, blog post or brochure – needs to tell the reader:

  • 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 BIG idea.
  • Focus on what your reader needs.
  • Be descriptive, but use short words and short sentences.
  • Spell out action.
  • Keep your lists parallel.
  • Ensure content does not assume a specific season.

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

  • Who? What is the reader’s educational background, age, gender, attitudes? What are the benefits and risk for the reader?
  • When? When will the reader read your message? How much time will they spend on it? When does the reader have to act?
  • Where? Where is the reader in the chain of command? Where do they 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 is the reader in the arrival of your message? How will the reader feel about it?
  • Why? Why are you writing? Why should the reader respond?