Avoid it i s and there is. They stretch
sentences, delay your point, hide responsibility,
and encourage passive verbs. Unless it refers
to something mentioned earlier, try to write
around it is.
Avoid wordy expressions. They clutter your
writing by getting in the way of the words that
carry the meaning. So prune such deadwood as
for the purpose of (to), during periods when
(when), in order to (to), and by means of
Use action verbs. Dont use a general verb
(make) plus extra words (a choice) when you can
use one specific verb (choose).
Dont use that and which unless they help
meaning or flow. Sometimes you can just drop
Avoid words ending in -ion and -ment.
Whenever the context permits, change these words
to verb forms to make your sentences shorter and
For a list of words that are overworked in
official writing and other words that might be
used instead see SECNAVINST 5216.5C.
Effective writing can be defined simply as
writing that is readily understood by the reader.
The basic fault of present-day writing is a
tendency to say what one has to say in as
complicated a way as possible. If you want to
write well, try to be direct, simple, brief,
vigorous, and lucid.
Use definite, specific, concrete language.
Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to
the vague, the concrete to the abstract for they
are more likely to arouse and hold the attention of
Avoid hut-2-3-4 phrases, long strings of nouns
and modifiers. Readers cant tell easily what
modifies what. We must live with some
established hut-2-3-4 phrases such as standard
subject identification codes, but you can avoid
creating new ones by adding some words. For
example, change the Board of Inspection and
Survey service acceptance trials requirements
to requirements by the Board of Inspection and
Survey for service acceptance trials.
Avoid using jargontechnical terms that are
understood inside your department but are
unintelligible to outsiders.
Avoid excessive abbreviating. Use abbrevia-
tions no more than you must with insiders
and avoid them entirely with outsiders. Spell
out an unfamiliar abbreviation the first time
it appears. If an abbreviation appears only
twice or infrequently, spell out the term
every time and avoid the abbreviation entirely.
Put clarity before economy.
If language is not correct, then what is said
is not what is meant; if what is said is not
what is meant, then what ought to be done
1. Introduction. Use this letter to correspond
officially with activities in the Department of
Defense. Also use it with organizations outside
the Department of Defense if they have adopted
the format. An example of the standard letter is
shown in Fig. 10-1.
2. Stationery. SECNAVINST 5216.5C tells
you what paper to use for various addressees. The
number, color, and distribution of internal copies
can be decided by your command. If printed
letterhead stationery is not available, type the
3. Margins. Allow 1-inch margins on
the top, bottom, and sides of each page.
On letterhead paper, start typing more than
1 inch from the top when the letterhead
is printed and less than 1 inch if it is
4. Senders Symbols
a. Use the following three symbols in
the upper right hand corner:
(1) Standard Subject Identification
(2) Originators code by itself or in a
b. The initials of writers and typists are un-
authorized symbols, but they may be included on
file copies as part of the drafters identification.
c. Exceptions to Using All Three Symbols.
Local practice determines how to handle senders
symbols in the following cases:
(1) Letters to members of Congress
(2) Letters of praise or condolence
(3) Personal, though official, letters
To avoid a busy appearance on these letters,
an activity may show all symbols on the file copy
but show only the date on the outgoing copy.