LTCOL JACK RICKMAN
1. Here's an attempt to be of some service to you on making
your tour at 1st Marine Division a little simpler and "user-friendly,"
administratively speaking. This is a re-run for those who
have been here a long time-but no less applicable today.
Recommend you pass this on to those many Officers and Staff Noncommissioned
Officers who will arrive after I'm gone. Anyone, private
and above, can benefit from learning to communicate better.
This communiqué contains too much to digest in one reading-recommend
print it, pin it to your wall, and use it to beat up people who
haven't seen it yet.
2. Please consider this memo a written PME.
It's not just for administrators. You can apply what you
read in the enclosure to any assignment-and most of it even
after you leave the Corps.
3. If you aren't a "style-over-substance" kind of
Marine this one will be good news: pen and ink changes.
They are authorized-always have been. See page 3 of your
1996 (10-2 of the old 1983) Department of the Navy Correspondence
Manual: two per page. The only exception is when
your subject/document is "too important," such as an award citation.
In our case, a letter or endorsement prepared for signature
by the CG, ADC, or Chief of Staff would prompt us to send our
Marine back to the printer. Please don't waste a bunch of time
and money making insignificant changes on routine administrative
correspondence, especially intrastaff memoranda. Keep in mind,
though, that the judgment call still resides with the signer.
4. Yes, you will occasionally see one of the enclosure's
errors above my pen without a pen change, too, but only during
national crisis-or more likely I just blew it. If you
see an error in what I've told you below, please call me.
My purpose here is not to persuade you to do it the "Rickmanian"
way, but to do it the right and easy way and show others that
we are professional in everything we do.
POINTERS FOR ADMIN EXCELLENCE
1. Here are some pointers for better writing-and even
better speaking. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making
this up. These pointers are from pubs written or approved
by DoD. If you find an error or have a suggested addition
to this living document, please let me know. If you want
to argue or make a bet, bring 60 cents to my office. I
drink Dr Pepper.
a. We serve in the 1st Marine Division,
not the First Marine Division. The only two exceptions occur
in the plain language address of naval messages (to ensure a
one- or two-letter typo doesn't cause the wrong division to
attack) and at the beginning of a sentence (You can't capitalize
b. Our sister divisions are the
2d and 3d Marine Divisions, not the 2nd and 3rd. The same
is true for all other units' numerical designations. Omit the
"n" and the "r", on everything but 2ndLt.
c. I MEF is pronounced "One" MEF,
not "Eye" MEF, nor First MEF.
d. When referring to the division,
the regiment, the battalion, the company, etc., do not capitalize.
When you use the terms generically like this, you are rendering
the organizational title a common noun-which should not be capitalized.
Words are not capitalized based on importance, rather on whether
they are proper nouns. Lassie is a proper noun.
Dog is a common noun.
e. The plural of court-martial
is courts-martial, not court martials.
f. The plural of sergeant major
is sergeants major, not sergeant majors.
g. We have many officers in charge,
but not a single officer-in-charge. No hyphens used.
h. The word "it's" is the contraction
of "it is." The word "its" is possessive.
i. The word "who's" is the contraction
of "who is." The word "whose" is possessive.
j. Take care not to use words when
you're uncertain of the word's definition or usage. Mistakes
of this sort are universally interpreted as the stunts of an
k. If we use Latin abbreviations,
be certain that we use them correctly. There may be someone
on the other end who actually sat through the class in high
school and will guffaw at our ignorance. I'm speaking
of "i.e.,", "e.g.,", "etc.,", "et al.,", and so on. Note
how those terms are punctuated. All but "et" are followed
by periods because they are abbreviations of Latin words.
See your dictionary and Government Style Manual for details
and definitions. A comma always precedes these abbreviations
l. Its "aide de camp," not "aide-de-camp;"
again, no hyphen. It's in most modern dictionaries now.
You'll often see the hyphens in the old dictionaries.
I recommend just say, "aide."
m. It's judgment, not judgement.
It's an American thing; we lost the silent "e" on the Mayflower.
n. The date of a letter (everywhere
but in the text) should be 1 Nov 76, not 1 NOV 76, and not 01
Nov 76; and it's "of 1 Nov 76", vice "dtd 1 Nov 76".
o. Spell out months and states
in the text, but abbreviate them in addresses and enclosure/reference
lines. Use 3-letter abbreviation for months and postal
2-letter abbreviation for states: Oct and Washington,
p. Spacing within the text of correspondence:
one space follows commas, semicolons, and parentheses; two spaces
follow periods and colons.
q. Avoid the tacky "him/her" solution
to placate political correctness police, particularly in directives.
Instead, try to keep it generic. Use terms like "Marine"
or billet title (lower case, of course).
r. There was a time when only "Marine"
was to be capitalized, but not "sailor." There is even
a SecNav instruction to that effect. In May 1994 SecNav
published a mod to capitalize "Sailor" too. The change
makes some sense because "Marines and sailors" looks like a
mistake to the uninitiated. The original reason for capitalizing
Marine was to avoid confusing us with lower forms of marine
life, not because we're special-even though we are, of course.
s. It's 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion.
The battalion drives and employs amphibious assault vehicles.
t. Here comes the fist fight.
Don't address a letter to the 1st Marine Regiment, or 5th Marine
Regiment, or 7th Marine Regiment or 11th Marine Regiment.
Their mailing addresses-and their official titles are 1st Marines,
5th Marines, 7th Marines and 11th Marines. Yes, they are
still regiments. Check your List of Marine Corps Activities
or their official stationery. No kidding. If you're
using homemade letterhead, you should fix it if necessary.
u. Generally speaking, our writing
skills have some room for improvement. There are too many
topics for this paper; but, here are some high points.
(1) Say "Please
submit the report by . . . ," instead of, "It is requested that
the report be submitted." In other words, try to write
the way you would naturally speak-without the four-letter words,
(2) Say "we"
and "you" in by-direction letters. Say "I" and "you" in
letters the "actual" will sign. A caveat is in order here:
Modesty leads us to avoid overuse of the word "I" in letters.
In most correspondence, we want to divert attention from ourselves
and direct the readers' attention to themselves or to the task
at hand. Reading a letter or e-mail that contains an "I"
is indicative of the signer's high opinion of himself.
avoid polysyllabic profundity. (That means don't try to
impress with big words. If you do, Lieutenant Colonel
Ganas may call you a sesquipedalian.) We write letters
and e-mails to communicate ideas-clearly and concisely.
We should try to do just that, not so that some of the people
will understand us if they try hard enough, but that none will
miss our meaning unless they're lacking their rational faculties
or are willfully uncooperative.
(4) Avoid using
the "dirty dozen" terms. These are trite, tired, useless,
bureaucratic terms that pompous people contrived long ago to
sound important. There's a 2 1/2-page list beginning on
page 1-23 of the 1983 Navy Correspondence Manual, the reading
of which I guarantee will improve your writing-with virtually
no effort. Any Marine who carries a Skillcraft pen, no
matter what his assignment, should keep a copy of those pages
handy. (Work smart, not hard-and give people the impression
that we're smart.)
The Dirty Dozen
|in accordance with
|in order to
|in the amount of
|in the event that
|it is requested that
||please (or omit this term completely)