SECDEF Writing Guide
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance on writing for the Secretary of Defense.
- Use clear and concise language; omit needless words and phrases.
- Avoid acronyms, even common ones. If in doubt, spell it out.
- Use simple words.
- Be upfront and answer the question at hand.
- Respond to letters promptly. If correspondence is late, explain why in the action memo.
- Whenever possible, distill complex issues into one page, using tabs for details, background information , and any relevant, previously signed correspondence. If the tabbed material is extensive, highlight revelvant sections or provide a separate executive summary; however, three or four tabbed items are sufficient for most topics.
- When submitting an action memo, explain why it requires the Secretary's decision or signature; likewise, an info memo should explain up front why the topic merits his attention.
- Double-check the names of the addressees on all correspondence; ensure spelling, titles, addresses, etc., are correct.
- Respond promptly to any questions or edits the Secretary provides.
Responses to Congressional Members:
- Answer the question or questions asked in the incoming letter from the Member; if you can't, state why. If the response cannot be provided within 14 days, contact the Member's office by phone or email, and also provide a formal interim response to the Member that states when a
complete answer will be available.
- If a letter refers to a provision of law or Congressional report language, ensure the Department's actions and responses comply with Congressional intent.