Captain Grose's Adjutant pages

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ADMINISTRATIVE EXCELLENCE

 

 
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BY
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.

                                                                      Very respectfully,

                                                                       JACK RICKMAN


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 a "1.")

    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 over-educated fool.

    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 in usage.

    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, DC.

    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, of course.

        (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.

        (3) Sedulously 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
Don't say:  Say instead:
addressees you
assist/assistance aid/help
commence begin/start
implement carry out/start/do
in accordance with by/following/per/under
in order to to
in the amount of for
in the event that  if
it is requested that  please (or omit this term completely)
promulgate issue/publish
this command  us/we
utilize/utilization use


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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