Style Guide

Your step-by-step guide to writing an awesome WATM article.


The Editorial Process:

  1. Pitch your headline to the contributors group, either as a post or a question. If you get 1-2+ likes, it's probably worth your time. It's not mandatory, but odds are with 0, 1, or 2 likes you'll get a ding at a later stage. At a minimum, you can pitch your headline to Paul via Facebook message or email and he will tell you whether its worth it right away.
  2. Post a rough draft for your article in the group for feedback (not required but a good practice).
  3. Put a draft in Wordpress at the same time. Make sure your draft CONFORMS TO THE STYLE GUIDE.
  4. Once you get all the feedback you can stomach, go into your Wordpress draft, make what changes you want, and when satisfied, then click "Submit for Review" Those are the articles Paul and Ward read, edit, comment on, and schedule or kick back to authors. We don't look at your drafts.
  5. If it's great, it'll be scheduled and/or published. If it needs work, we'll email you back with our comments.

The Style Guide:

Our style borrows directly from the AP Style guide that everyone else in the media works on, with some minor tweaks.

Your stories will be published much faster and have to be edited much less if you follow this guide.

Basic guidelines:

  • Abbreviations and acronyms: if it's the first reference, spell it out. Further references can be abbreviated. You don't however, need to go overboard. Acronyms that are in common usage, like DoD, or USMC don't need to be explained.

    • The briefing was held in the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) on Aug. 16.

  • Civilian titles: use full name and title/job description on first reference. Capitalize title and do not use a comma to separate it from the individual's name.

    • ex: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke today at a press conference.
    • If the title is after the name, it is not capitalized. Ash Carter, the secretary of defense, spoke at a press conference.

  • Titles for military personnel: use the proper terminology for referencing people of other services.

    • Army: soldier
    • Navy: sailor
    • Marine Corps: Marine
    • Air Force: airman
    • Coast Guard: coast guardsman

  • Ranks: For personnel on first reference, use the rank, then drop it completely if referencing back to that person later in the piece. Always use the AP style version, not whatever the branch's version is. Here's the full listing.

    • This means you should never use SGM, CPT, LtCol., etc. Please read and follow the AP Version (which by the way would be Sgt. Maj., Capt., Lt. Col.)
    • One soldier, Capt. Steven Hendrix, believes this is a major problem among the ranks. Hendrix also believes that this quote will make a great bullet point for his OER.
    • Sgt. Maj. Evan Banks believes this is a real problem. Banks also told WATM that we need to get our goddamn hands out of our pockets.

  • Quotations: There are a few different ways for quoting someone. Note that punctuation should always be inside the quotation.

    • You should never use: XXXX was quoted as saying, "I said this." or XXXX stated: "Here's the quote." These are flimsy ways of quoting someone that are never used. ALWAYS lead the sentence with the quote. In some circumstances (sparingly), it's ok to use XXXX added: "Here's my quote."
    • Here is how someone should be quoted:

      • "I am giving a quote for a story," said Brian Davis, a former Marine infantryman. "I like turtles."
      • "I am giving a quote for a story," Brian Davis, a former Marine infantryman, told WATM. "I like turtles."
      • "I am giving a quote for a story," said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. "I like turtles."

  • States and Countries: When referencing the United States in a headline, always use US with no periods between letters. In a post, write it as U.S.

  • Spacing: Always use single spacing after sentences. Never double.
  • Exclamation points: Use sparingly. Unless a person is actually yelling, DO NOT USE IT!

How To Write A Good Story:

Half the battle starts with getting people to click the link (which is usually shared on Facebook). That's why it starts with a clever and catchy headline. Headlines should be sentence case, and should give the general idea of the story. If you need to quote an item in the headline, use single quotes (' ') in lieu of double quotes (" ").

Good Headlines:

Here's how Hollywood legend Dale Dye earned the Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam

6 Weird laws unique to the US military

Terrible Headlines:

Soldier Gets Court-Martialed

Weird UCMJ laws

Read the full Headline guide here >

Now write your Story

So now that you have a good idea, enough research, and good headline, you need to open the piece strong. The first sentence needs to catch the reader so that they want to continue on. Would you read a piece that started with, "It was a dark night on Camp Pendleton." ?

No, you wouldn't. It needs to be interesting, and the opening line should hint at what is to come: Officials at Camp Pendleton are saying that a dark night at the base is partly to blame for drunk driving.

Read other stories on the site and in the news to see how other writers do this. The worst thing that you can do is get the reader to click the link, and then bore them at the first sentence.

Use the other posts on the site along with this example story to construct yours:

An Example of a Good Story:

Shocking Headline That Will Get Someone To Click The Link

It's not every day that an editor at WATM reads an entire story without making a change, since many stories need minor edits and others need much more. But the site recently released a style guide to make sure the posts are top quality, sources confirmed on Monday.

"It's basically a way to make sure that we are writing in similar styles," said Paul Szoldra, executive editor of WATM. "We want our writers to have their own voice, but also to conform to similar styles of news writing like in this article."

Some writers have been writing without the use of a "lead," or an attention-grabbing sentence. Others have forgotten to use quotes from both sides of the story, or have had spelling errors.

The worst, however, are the posts that are completely boring. When this happens, a little kitten dies.

"You've got to think of the kittens," said Robert Smith. Smith is a part of a growing trend of writers who see very few edits on their articles.

"When I see an article from a select few writers, I usually know that I don't have to rewrite it, or add in a whole lot more," said Szoldra. "It definitely saves a lot of time."

Szoldra also says that it's a good idea to explain "inside jokes" so that anyone in any military branch can understand any post on the site. The key he says, is that articles need to be accessible to a wide audience.

"This is B.S.," said John Smith. "I want a damn raise if you're going to make me actually spell things properly."

The Air Force snagged the alleged Minot M240 thief

The Air Force's long national nightmare is over. Its missing M240 machine gun was finally recovered from the home of an airman stationed at the base, according to a press release from the Air Force Global Strike Command.

The theft prompted many to question how it could have been lost, why the Air Force has an M240, does the Air Force really need an M240, how many do they have or need, and would the Air Force notice if I took one.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations obtained a federal search warrant, executing it at the off-base residence of a Team Minot airman on June 19, 2018.

Missing for little over a month, the automatic weapon and the fallout of its theft made waves across the military-veteran community and in the military news cycle. After a box of 40mm MK 19 grenades fell off the back of a humvee while traversing a Native American reservation, the subsequent inventory of the Air Force arsenal on Minot discovered the missing M240 machine gun. This prompted the 5th Bomb Wing, 91st Missile Wing, and other installations to make a thorough inventory of their weapons.

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This Microsoft training fast tracks veterans into sweet tech careers

Solaire Brown (formerly Sanderson) was a happy, gung-ho Marine sergeant deployed in Afghanistan when she realized her military career was about to change. She was tasked with finding the right fit for her post-military life – and she knew she wanted to be prepared.

Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

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The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

The only good mines are one that are cleared — or better yet, never used in the first place. Today mines are generally seen as relics of bygone eras, deadly weapons that remain dangerous long after the war is fought. Forgotten minefields all over the world kill civilians by the score – more than 8,600 in 2016 alone. Many of these are children.

Many who join armed forces around the world do so with the idea that they can keep their children and families – along with the children and families of their fellow countrymen – safe from the imminent dangers of impending war. When faced with an existential threat, countries will go to horrifying lengths to defend themselves.

This isn't World War I — it's the 1980s. No one told Saddam or Khomeini.

Such was the case in the early 1980s, the nascent years of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran fought a brutal war against Iraq since 1980, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein smelled blood in the disorganized post-Revolution Iran and attempted to seize its access to the Persian Gulf by force.

The Iran-Iraq War was particularly brutal, even as far as warfare in the Middle East is concerned. The war was defined by eight years of stalemates and failed offensives, indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks — often using chemical weapons — and insane asymmetrical warfare.

Insane symmetrical warfare is a very clean term for the tactics Iran used to level the playing field of the Western-backed, technologically superior Iraqis. Iran recently purged its professional military of those loyal to the deposed Shah and was by no means ready to fight a war with a series of Revolutionary militias. The Ayatollah Khomeini was no military commander. He saw a success in war in terms of casualties inflicted on the enemy versus the number his forces took, a World War I-era approach to warfare.

They also dug trenches. A lot of trenches.

To Khomeini, as long as the math worked and his fighters were sufficiently motivated by religious fanaticism and revolutionary spirit, he could push all the way to Baghdad. So he enlisted large numbers of civilians with little or no military training to execute his plans. This entrenched incompetence included the field command leadership who most often sent men to die in droves using human wave attacks, another World War I relic. The horror doesn't stop there.

The New York Times' Terence Smith, writing about Iran in 1984, described the use of child soldiers by Iran to clear minefields. Young boys, aged 12-17 years, wore red headbands with the words 'Sar Allah' in Farsi (Warriors of God) and small metal keys that the Ayatollah declared were their tickets to Paradise if they were martyred in their mission. Many were sent into battle against Iraqi tanks without any protection and bound by ropes to prevent desertion.

They were the first wave, making the way for Iranian tanks by clearing barbed wire and minefields with their bodies.

Iranian child soldiers marching off to fight Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

These children weren't the only human wave attackers, but they certainly were the most notable – and effective. In the same interview, Smith notes the Iranian commanders are unapologetic. Iraq has many tanks and a lot of support. Iran has very few. What Iran had is exactly what the Ayatollah predicted, a large population filled with religious fervor.

The total number of casualties inflicted on Iran and Iraq throughout the war isn't clearly known, but what is known is a number ranging anywhere between 500,000 to one million killed and wounded in the eight-year slugfest.

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Technically, there are five branches of service to choose from if you're thinking about joining the military (including the Coast Guard). There's a high level of rivalry among branches that can spark a lot of friendly sh*t talking. As veterans, we still love to take cheap shots at one another — but it's always in good fun.

We've said it time-and-time again that the military has a dark sense of humor and we flex those comedic muscles at the other branches as often as possible. Since the U.S. Navy is hands-down the most dominant force to ever patrol the high seas, sailors do things that no other branch can do: kick ass while floating in the middle of nowhere.

The Army and the Air Force can't compete with the Navy since they have no ships. The Marines can't conduct business without the Navy navigating them around the world. Lastly, The Coast Guard is a bunch of land-hugging puddle jumpers.

Since we managed to sh*t talk to everyone (in good fun), it's time to nail each of them, once again, through memes making you reconsider why you didn't join the Navy instead.

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Tom Clancy used this wargame for 'Red Storm Rising'

Tom Clancy's 1986 novel Red Storm Rising is arguably his literary tour de force. Following on the heels of 1984's The Hunt for Red October, it cemented Clancy's status as the inventor of the techno-thriller genre. Despite being a massive best-seller, Clancy never won a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Prize for his contributions to the field of literature.

In Red Storm Rising, "Dance of the Vampires" featured a Soviet attack on a NATO carrier force centered on USS Nimitz (CVN 68), USS Saratoga (CV 60), and the French carrier Foch (R99). In the book, the Nimitz was badly damaged by two AS-6 Kingfish missiles, while the Foch took three hits and was sunk.

There was little understanding of how new technology like the Tu-22M Backfire would play into a war.

(DOD painting)

But how did Clancy manage to make that moment in the book so realistic? The answer lies in a wargame designed by Larry Bond called Harpoon. Bond is best known as a techno-thriller author of some repute himself, having written Red Phoenix, Cauldron, and Red Phoenix Burning, among others. But he designed the Harpoon wargame, which came in both a set of rules for miniatures and a computer game. (Full disclosure: The author is a long-time fan of the game, and owns both miniature and computer versions.)

Alas, poor Foch, you were doomed from the start.

(U.S. Navy photo)

At WargameVault.com, Larry Bond explained that while the end result had been determined, what was lacking was an understand of two big areas: How would all these new systems interact, and what would the likely tactics be? As a result, they ran the game three times, and it was not a small affair: A number of others took part, resulting in each side's "commander" having "staffs" who used written standard orders and after-action reports.

A simulated massacre of Tu-22M Backfires off Iceland also shaped the plot of 'Red Storm Rising.'

(U.S. Navy)

Each of the three games had very different results, but the gaming helped to make Red Storm Rising a literary masterpiece of the last 20th century. Incidentally, Harpoon further shaped Red Storm Rising through a scenario called the "Keflavik Turkey Shoot" – a gaming result that convinced Clancy to include the Soviet Union taking Iceland in the early portions of the book.

While she sits in reserve today, at the time of 'Red Storm Rising,' USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) was the latest and greatest in naval technology.

(US Navy photo)

Bond released a collection of those scenarios, and some other material into an electronic publication called "Dance of the Vampires," available for $8.00 at WargameVault.com. It is a chance to see how a wargame shaped what was arguably the best techno-thriller of all time.

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These Dutch destroyers can inflict max pain on the Russian navy

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Today, the centerpiece of the Dutch navy consists of four powerful air-defense vessels. While the Dutch Navy calls them "frigates," these ships actually are really more akin to smaller guided-missile destroyers. Their armament is close to that of the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers. These vessels replaced two Tromp-class guided-missile destroyers and two Jacob van Heemskerck-class guided-missile frigates.

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4 reasons why the Navy will always be on missile defense patrols

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In June 2018 though, the Navy wanted to get away from this mission. The reason? They want to shift this to shore installations to free up the destroyers for other missions. Well, the ballistic missile defense mission is not going to go away any time soon. Here's why:

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