The CIA Has a Style Guide

by Christopher Paul on July 21, 2014

Many people know that newspapers and press organizations often have their own writing style and have a published style guide for writers and editors to refer to when reporting the news. The most discussed guide is usually the style from the Associated Press — called the AP Style Book.

Style guides, it turns out, are not just for the press. The CIA has their own guide and it’s rather unnerving which Quartz curated:

  • Keep the language crisp and pungent; prefer the forthright to the pompous and ornate.
  • Do not stray from the subject; omit the extraneous, no matter how brilliant it may seem or even be.
  • Favor the active voice and shun streams of polysyllables and prepositional phrases.
  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short, and vary the structure of both.
  • Be frugal in the use of adjectives and adverbs; let nouns and verbs show their own power.

regime: has a disparaging connotation and should not be used when referring to democratically elected governments or, generally, to governments friendly to the United States.

tortuous (adj, twisting, devious, highly complex)
torturous (adj, causing torture, cruelly painful)

number of: a phrase that is too imprecise in some contexts. A number of troops were killed. (If you do not know how many, say an unknown number.)

casualties: include persons injured, captured, or missing in action as well as those killed in battle. In formulating casualty statistics, be sure to write “killed or wounded,” not “killed and wounded.” (See injuries, casualties.)

I guess you have to normalize the words used in reports to officials but, man, it’s depressing this kind of thing has to exist.

via The Millions

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