FORT POLK, La. — From distinct rank abbreviations to last name references, the Associated Press style guide vastly differs from the military writing standards detailed in Army Regulation 25-50, Preparing and Managing Correspondence.
Although these nuances are often stark and conflicting, the Guardian and PAO social media outlets are held to the industry standards set forth in the AP Stylebook. As AR 360-1, the Army Public Affairs Program, states, “The AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law is the preferred style guide for … publications.” There is an integral separation between military and AP styles and to what material they apply.
As a weekly newspaper, which serves both military and civilian communities, adhering to a recognizable writing style is vital — it allows non-military affiliated readers to understand the content being published.
Ranks and their abbreviations, for example, greatly differ among the various branches of the military. The AP Stylebook states, “each service branch has its own systems of abbreviating officer and enlisted ranks … that vary widely from AP style. However, the Department of Defense uses AP’s military titles in news releases because the abbreviations are easily understood.”
Instead of utilizing the writing and abbreviation conventions for each branch, news services follow one set of guidelines; in this way, readers aren’t subject to learn the branch-specific writing practices in order to comprehend the content. It promotes clear, concise and quick communication.
Another contrasting facet between the AP and military writing styles deals with name references. In the military, Soldiers are consistently referred to by their rank and last name — it is a point of respect; but, in journalism, individuals and their titles are only fully given on the first reference.
The stylebook states, “On first reference, use the appropriate title before the full name of a member of the military. In subsequent references, do not continue using the title before a name. Use only the last name.” Likewise, when civilians are mentioned in an article, their full name and title are only used at first reference. Again, this promotes a consistency in writing, which allows for quicker and clearer communication.
Military and AP style aren’t always at odds, however, as some guidelines are similar. Acronym rules are a prime example. AR 25-50 states, “When an acronym is used, spell out the acronym the first time it is used and follow it with the acronym in parentheses. Thereafter, use the acronym.”
Per the Stylebook, journalists spell out acronyms on the first reference and rely on the acronym itself for succeeding mentions.