Writing Guide

This section includes writing style guides and rules for writing copy in the USO voice.

Voice & Tone

The USO, much like the people who serve, speaks a language all its own.

Our mix of military speak and nonprofit nomenclature can make it challenging to keep our organizational voice clear and consistent. This section is designed to help us maintain that clarity and consistency. It should be used as a guide for all USO written communication.

Applying the USO voice and tone consistently across communications is an essential part of reinforcing our brand position.

Our voice should reflect the pride with which we pursue our mission; the esteem in which we hold the people who serve and the warm, supportive, home-and-family atmosphere we seek to create for service members, whenever and wherever they seek us out.

USO & Military Language

Find specific terms and definitions in the glossary

View Glossary

On-Brand Language

As the brand evolves, some of our language will also evolve to align with our human-centric approach.

Here are some examples of how we will do that.

Instead of: Use:
Force Behind the Forces For the People Who Serve
#BeTheForce #theUSO
Military supporter Service member supporter/ Supporter of people serving in the military
The USO supports the military The USO supports the people serving in the military

Core Brand Tone

Our tone has been informed by the personality. The brand tone is how we bring our brand personality to life for our audiences.​

Brand Personality Trait Tone
Empathetic Portray a sense of compassion, support and understanding. We have a strong understanding of military life that creates a unique ability to know and deliver on what the people serving need before it’s asked. However, while service members welcome our support, they don’t seek or welcome pity.

When written, the use of “you” and speaking in active voice is effective in relating to the audience. Language that demonstrates a sense of understanding and using more emotional words expressing understanding of impact. We want to showcase that the USO is an organization of people helping the people who serve. ​Visually, it is important to place focus on the subject’s face to showcase the emotions of the people serving and their families. (Important note: Please reference the Imagery section of the Design Guide for more information on clearing images of individuals for use.)​
Uplifting Be optimistic and a source of positive encouragement – even in the most challenging environments; we meet people where they are and make them feel like “the most important person in the room.” Our tone is positive, eliciting feelings of security among those the USO serves.

When written, use an uplifting tone and affirmative vocabulary. Messaging should focus on how inspiring the people who serve are. Talking about a positive change, either visually or through a story - showing the mission in action. This is where we showcase our “USO Goodness.“​ Visually, you can support this with images of the USO positively impacting service members and their families. Images of happy people as the USO provides a helping hand.
Steadfast Reassuring and confident. We’ve been there for service members and their families for generations and will be there for generations to come.

When written, the use of consistent, direct and strong language and testimonials can help to showcase the steadfast nature of the USO. ​Visually, the use of imagery showcasing the USO supporting across the globe, in all areas those serving might be, showcases a steadfast tone. Showcasing that this is a brand that is there in the tough times.​
Adaptable The USO is highly capable with the knowledge, capacity and expertise that enables us to manage complexity, and adeptly and quickly respond to change. Much like service members, our tone must reflect our ability to rapidly adjust to situations with ease and positivity.​

When written, show commitment to the people who serve and the ability to reach them wherever they need us. Visually, it is important to show how the USO is alongside service members and their families wherever they may be: at an airport center, overseas, on base and on ships.
Enterprising Resourceful, mission-driven and innovative about the ways in which we deliver on our promise to service members and their families. The sun never sets on the USO: we are always pushing globally to better serve service members.​

When written, our tone should be concise, confident and ambitious demonstrating that we are always looking for solutions for those we serve. This language is to be more pointed and results-driven while remaining approachable. ​Visually, showcase the variety of ways in which the USO serves service members and their families all over the globe.

Editorial Style

Style Manual

The preferred style manual for USO communications is The Associated Press Stylebook. All USO writers are expected to follow AP style.

It is recommended that anyone directly involved in the creation of marketing and communications materials get an online subscription to the AP Stylebook.

For spelling and usage issues not covered in the AP stylebook, use Webster’s New World College Dictionary, the Stylebook’s primary dictionary.

Inclusive Language Practices

USO content should adequately represent the diversity of the population we serve and our society at large and should always avoid discriminatory or marginalizing language. We encourage everyone representing the USO to produce and edit content with this in mind.

Here are just a few examples of how to use inclusive language.

Avoid gender-specific titles and terms:

Instead of: Use:
Chairman chair
Founding Fathers founders
mankind people, humanity
guardsman Guard member
men and women of the Armed Forces people serving in the military