Military

Army - The UK army is simply the Army (ie initial cap). But if there is a need to distinguish it from other armies it should be lower case...

Army

The UK army is simply the Army (ie initial cap). But if there is a need to distinguish it from other armies it should be lower case - eg: The government is asking the Army to help fight foot-and-mouth disease but The British army is taking supplies to the earthquake zone. 

Lower case, also, if you are using it adjectivally - eg: Rain has thwarted army efforts to deliver food.

Foreign armies generally take lower case, but the US Army is the correct title and so takes cap ‘A’.

Most army ranks can and should be abbreviated even at first reference - see list below. Listed separately are those abbreviations to be used only at second reference - after the rank has been spelt out in full at first mention. A third category lists those ranks that we do not abbreviate, even at second reference. But ranks should be spelt out in full (lower case) when they are used without reference to a specific name - eg: The major general attended the meeting.

Abbreviations which can be used at first reference: 

If knighted, military figures would be Gen Sir Arthur Whitehead, then Gen Whitehead. If made a peer, they would just be Lord Whitehead.

  • General - Gen
  • Lieutenant General - Lt Gen (later, just Gen)
  • Major General - Maj Gen (later, just Gen)
  • Brigadier - Brig
  • Brigadier General - Brig Gen (later, just Gen) - this is not a rank in the British army.
  • Colonel - Col
  • Lieutenant Colonel - Lt Col (later, just Col)
  • Major - Maj
  • Captain - Capt
  • Lieutenant - Lt
  • 2nd Lieutenant - 2nd Lt
  • Staff Sergeant - Staff Sgt
  • Colour Sergeant - Colour Sgt
  • Sergeant - Sgt (Serjeant - Sjt if a member of The Rifles)
  • Corporal - Cpl
  • Lance Corporal - L/Cpl
  • Private - Pte

Abbreviations to be used only at second reference:

  • Regimental Sergeant Major - RSM
  • Warrant Officer - WO
  • L/Cpl of Horse - L/CoH

Ranks that we do not abbreviate:

  • Field Marshal
  • Bombardier

Corps: 

Both the US and UK armies are divided into corps - which should be capped up when you are giving a name - eg: The Royal Corps of Signals. Any preceding number should be expressed as a Roman numeral - eg: III Corps. A corps is led by a lieutenant general - written as Lt Gen at first reference when accompanied by the name. If the full title is Lt Gen Sir John Smith, then the correct form at second reference is Gen Smith.

Divisions: 

Army corps are divided into divisions. Capped up when you are giving a name - eg: 1st Armoured Division; lower case if the reference is non-specific - eg: Two divisions of troops will take control of the area. A division is under the command of a major general (which you would spell out only if there is no name attached). As a rank, the title is written Maj Gen, even at first reference.

Regiments/Brigades:

Divisions are commonly divided into regiments or brigades. Lower case if the reference is non-specific; capped up when you are giving a name - eg: The Household Cavalry Regiment; The Parachute Regiment; 7th Armoured Brigade, 101st Logistics Brigade. A preceding ordinal number is not expressed as a word.

Battalions:

Regiments are divided into battalions. The third battalion of the Parachute Regiment is best written as 3 Para - ie contrary to our usual rule, the cardinal number is expressed as a digit, whatever it is (the form ‘3rd Bn’ should be avoided, given that we sometimes abbreviate ‘billion’ to ‘bn’). The officer commanding a battalion is a lieutenant colonel: Lt Col when accompanied by a name (Col at second reference), but spelt out when no name is attached.

Small units:

The correct terms with reference to tanks and armour are regiment/squadron/troop; with reference to the Infantry, they are battalion/company/platoon/section; and withreference of the Artillery, they are regiment/battery/troop/section.

A troop is a group of soldiers, normally about 30. Do not refer to individuals as troops - to say: ‘Five troops have been killed in Afghanistan’ would be wrong. But you can use the term in a generic sense eg: The UK has sent more troops to Helmand province.

Paratrooper:

Note that paratrooper is singular. The plural is paratroops (and not ‘paratroopers’).

Challenger 2:

The British army's main battle tank - and not 'Challenger II'.

Royal Air Force/RAF

Where possible, ranks should be abbreviated at first reference. But many cannot be abbreviated until second reference - and some cannot be abbreviated at all. But ranks should be spelt out in full (lower case) when they are used without reference to a specific name - eg: The air vice marshal attended the meeting.

Abbreviations to be used at first reference:

  • Group Captain - Gp Capt
  • Wing Commander - Wing Cdr
  • Squadron Leader - Sqn Ldr
  • Flight Lieutenant - Flt Lt
  • Flight Sergeant - Flt Sgt
  • Sergeant - Sgt
  • Corporal - Cpl

Abbreviations to be used only at second reference:

  • Air Chief Marshal - ACM
  • Air Marshal - AM
  • Air Vice Marshal - AVM
  • Air Commodore - Air Cmdr
  • Senior Aircraftman/woman - SAC
  • Leading Aircraftman/woman - LAC
  • Aircraftman/woman - AC
  • Warrant Officer - WO
  • Chief Technician - Ch Tech

Ranks that we do not abbreviate:

  • Marshal of the Royal Air Force (never becomes just ‘Marshal’)
  • Flying Officer
  • Pilot Officer

The RAF has a regiment with a number of squadrons doing ground-based protection work. Its members are correctly called gunners, though airmen/airwomen is acceptable - never ‘soldiers’.

Royal Navy 

It’s navy ie lower case, even if you are referring to our own. But you do need initial caps if you name a particular one eg: the Royal Navy or the US Navy.

When identifying a Royal Navy ship, HMS should be included at first reference - eg: HMS Rhyl, a frigate or the frigate, HMS Rhyl. Do not precede HMS with ‘the’. In later references, HMS can be dropped - in which case, the definite article should be included eg: the Rhyl.

Where possible, ranks should be abbreviated at first reference. But many cannot be abbreviated until second reference - and some cannot be abbreviated at all. But ranks should be spelt out in full (lower case) when they are used without reference to a specific name - eg: The rear admiral attended the meeting.

Abbreviations to be used at first reference:

  • Admiral of the Fleet - Adm of the Fleet
  • Admiral - Adm eg: Adm Lord Boyce; second reference Lord Boyce
  • Vice Admiral - Vice Adm
  • Rear Admiral - Rear Adm
  • Captain - Capt
  • Commander - Cdr
  • Lieutenant Commander - Lt Cdr
  • Lieutenant - Lt
  • Sub Lieutenant - Sub Lt

Abbreviations to be used only at second reference:

  • Warrant Officer - WO
  • Chief Petty Officer - CPO
  • Petty Officer - PO
  • Commodore - Cmdr

Ranks that we do not abbreviate:

  • First Sea Lord
  • Midshipman
  • Able Seaman

armed forces

This is lower case 

Marine:

In the UK, marines are part of the navy - they are not soldiers, so don’t call them that. Lower case unless you are referring to the Royal Marines.