General Guidelines

Updated: March 31, 2023

The way in which we refer to Veterans is important to properly acknowledge their service to the United States or their home country. The University of Iowa has an active Veteran and military-connected community, with several hundred students, faculty, and staff who are Veterans or currently serving in the military.

Student Veterans are usually nontraditional students, some of whom face challenges in college, including the ability to adapt to social norms and cultural expectations of higher education and civilian society. Faculty and staff who interact with student Veterans play an important role in their civilian socialization and in their successful transition to life as a student.

Some general guidelines when creating content about Veterans:

Capitalize Veteran: Capitalizing Veteran when referring to people who have served in the military places prominence on the position and distinguishes it from other uses of the word (e.g., someone who has had a long service or experience in an occupation, office, or the like). It also indirectly recognizes them for their service.

Examples: John is a Veteran who served during World War II. Jane is a veteran member of our department.

Spell out United States on first reference: When writing about Veterans, spell out United States on first reference, even if modifying a branch of the military. Abbreviate U.S. on second reference.

Example: John is a member of the United States Army.

Veterans from other countries: Don’t assume all Veterans served in the United States military. The University of Iowa has some Veterans who are foreign Veterans.

Either at the beginning or end of an interview or conversation when you are asking the subject for the correct spelling of their name, it is a good time to also ask if they served in the U.S. military. If they served for another country, they will tell you at that time.

Example: Joe served six years in the South Korean Armed Forces.

Military titles: It is important to correctly list military titles and rank. Preference is for spelling out titles because often the abbreviations are used incorrectly, which can be demeaning to Veterans and active military members. Military titles and rank should always be capitalized.

It is acceptable to use the correct AP Style abbreviation on second and subsequent references. Those abbreviations are listed at the end of this section.

Example: United States Army Command Sergeant Major Matthew Miller served four deployments to the Middle East.

Retired officers: A military rank may be used in first reference before the name of an officer who has retired if it is relevant to the content. However, do not use the abbreviation Ret. Instead, use retired just as former would be used before the title of a civilian.

Example: They invited retired Army General John Smith.

AP Style Military Titles

  • general — Gen.
  • lieutenant general — Lt. Gen. major general — Maj. Gen. brigadier general — Brig. Gen. colonel — Col.
  • lieutenant colonel — Lt. Col. major — Maj.
  • Captain — Capt.
  • first lieutenant — 1st Lt. second lieutenant — 2nd Lt.

Warrant Officers

  • chief warrant officer — Chief Warrant Officer warrant officer — Warrant Officer

Enlisted Personnel

  • sergeant major of the Army — Sgt. maj. of the Army command sergeant major — Command Sgt. Maj. sergeant major — Sgt. Maj.
  • first sergeant — 1st Sgt. master sergeant — Master Sgt.
  • sergeant first class — Sgt. 1st Class staff sergeant — Staff Sgt. sergeant — Sgt.
  • corporal — Cpl. specialist — Spc. private first class — Pfc. private — Pvt.

Navy, Coast Guard

Commissioned Officers

  • admiral — Adm.
  • vice admiral — Vice Adm.
  • rear admiral upper half — Rear Adm.
  • rear admiral lower half — Rear Adm. captain — Capt.
  • commander — Cmdr.
  • lieutenant commander — Lt. Cmdr. lieutenant — Lt.
  • lieutenant junior grade — Lt. j.g. ensign — Ensign

Warrant Officers

  • chief warrant officer — Chief Warrant Officer

Enlisted Personnel

  • master chief petty officer of the Navy — Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy master chief petty officer — Master Chief Petty Officer
  • senior chief petty officer — Senior Chief Petty Officer chief petty officer — Chief Petty Officer
  • petty officer first class — Petty Officer 1st Class petty officer second class — Petty Officer 2nd Class petty officer third class — Petty Officer 3rd Class seaman — Seaman
  • seaman apprentice — Seaman Apprentice seaman recruit — Seaman Recruit

Marine Corps

Ranks and abbreviations for commissioned officers are the same as those in the Army. Warrant officer ratings follow the same system used in the Navy. There are no specialist ratings.


  • sergeant major of the Marine Corps — Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps sergeant major — Sg. Maj.
  • master gunnery sergeant — Master Gunnery Sgt. first sergeant — 1st Sgt.
  • master sergeant — Master Sgt. gunnery sergeant — Gunnery Sgt. staff sergeant — Staff Sgt. sergeant — Sgt.
  • corporal — Cpl.
  • lance corporal — Lance Cpl. private first class — Pfc. private — Pvt.

Air Force

Ranks and abbreviations for commissioned officers are the same as those in the Army.

Enlisted Designations

  • chief master sergeant of the Air Force — Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force chief master sergeant — Chief Master Sgt.
  • senior master sergeant — Senior Master Sgt. master sergeant — Master Sgt.
  • technical sergeant — Tech Sgt. staff sergeant — Staff Sgt. senior airman — Senior Airman
  • airman first class — Airman 1st Class airman — Airman
  • airman basic – Airman

Note: The United States Space Force, which is a separate and distinct branch of the armed services formed in 2019, is organized under the Department of the Air Force in a manner similar to how the Marine Corps is organized under the Department of the Navy. Its members are known as guardians and its rank names can be found here.

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