NAVY CORRESPONDENCE AND
This chapter applies to all Navy personnel who
prepare, approve, and manage correspondence.
Additional information on any of the topics
discussed here may be found in the references
listed at the end of this chapter.
NAVAL WRITING STANDARDS
In the Navy we rarely write to just one
person. Even our most routine work is likely to
receive many readingsfrom typists, secretaries,
supervisors, and addressees. The quality of
writing in a single letter, for example, can
help the productivity of dozens of readers or slow
Poor writing hurts not only your readers; at
its worst, poor writing leads to lives lost and
programs rejected. When your writing is ineffec-
tive, it hurts both your credibility and your
Plan what to say. Your writing will be clear
only if your thinking is clear. So before you start
to write, think about what you are going to say.
If you have many points to make, list them on
a piece of paper and then rearrange them in the
best order. Next write a draft and revise it
Group related information into paragraphs.
Cover one topic completely before starting
another, and let a topic take several paragraphs
if necessary. Divide long paragraphs where your
thinking takes a turn.
Start with your main point. Put requests
before justifications, answers before explanations,
solutions before problems, and conclusions before
evidence. You might delay the main point to
soften bad news, for example, but avoid delaying
too long. Readers, like listeners, are put off
by people who take forever to get to the
Stick to what your reader needs to know.
Anticipate the main concerns your reader may
have and address them in advance, but do not say
more than is necessary.
Use more parallelism. Make sentence elements
that are similar in thought similar in form.
Parallelism saves words, clarifies ideas, and
Make your writing as formal or informal as
the situation requires, but do so with language you
might use in speaking. The most readable
writing sounds like people talking to people.
Use personal pronouns. Speak of the activity,
command, or office as we, us, our. Use I, me,
my less often, usually in correspondence signed
by the commanding officer and then only to show
special concern or warmth.
If the choice is between two words that
convey your meaning equally well, one short and
familiar and the other long and unusual, prefer
the short and familiar one. Use the long and
unusual word only if it is more apt in meaning.
Keep your sentences short. Although short
sentences wont guarantee clarity, they are
usually less confusing than long ones. Mix short
and long sentences for variety.
Avoid passive verbs. They make your writing
wordy, roundabout, and sometimes confusing.
Learn to spot passive verbs and make them
active. Most of your sentences should use a
who-does-what order. Write passively only if
you have good reason to avoid saying who or what
has done the verbs action. This situation may
occur when the doer is unknown, unimportant,
obvious, or better left unsaid.
Use no more words than are necessary to do
the job. The longer you take to say things, the
weaker you come across and the more you risk
blurring important ideas.
When you revise, tighten paragraphs to
sentences, sentences to clauses, clauses to phrases,
phrases to wordsor strike ideas entirely.