- 1 Maastricht Treaty
- 2 Macau, not Macao
- 3 Mach number
- 4 machinegun
- 5 macroeconomic
- 6 Madagascar
- 7 Madonna
- 8 Madras
- 9 madrasa
- 10 mafia
- 11 Maghreb
- 12 mailman
- 13 maintain
- 14 major
- 15 majority of, vast majority of
- 16 majority, plurality
- 17 majority leader
- 18 Malagasy
- 19 Maldive Islands
- 20 Mali
- 21 Maltese
- 22 mammon
- 23 man, mankind
- 24 manifesto, manifestos
- 25 Manila
- 26 manoeuvre, but in American style maneuver
- 27 mantel, mantle
- 28 manufacture, manufacturer
- 29 maps
- 30 marines
- 31 marquis
- 32 Marseille
- 33 marshal, marshalling, marshalled, but in American style marshal, marshaling, marshalled
- 34 Massawa
- 35 Masters Series
- 36 Masters Tournament
- 37 masterful/masterly
- 38 match point
- 39 materiel
- 40 materialise
- 41 may, can
- 42 may, might
- 43 May Day, mayday
- 44 mayoress
- 45 McDonnell Douglas Corp
- 46 M.D.
- 47 meagre, but in American style meager
- 48 mean
- 49 Mecca
- 50 measures
- 51 Medal of Honor
- 52 Medecins sans Frontieres
- 53 media
- 54 medieval
- 55 medical stories
- 56 Medicaid
- 57 Medicare
- 58 meet, mete
- 59 mega-
- 60 megaton
- 61 megawatt
- 62 Melanesia
- 63 memento, mementos
- 64 memorandum, memorandums
- 65 men’s, women’s
- 66 Mercalli scale
- 67 Mercedes-Benz
- 68 merchant marine
- 69 merry-go-round
- 70 Messerschmitt
- 71 Messiah
- 72 metal, mettle
- 73 metaphors
- 74 meters
- 75 metre, but meter in American style
- 76 metric ton
- 77 Micronesia
- 78 mid-
- 79 middle initials in names
- 80 middleman
- 81 Mideast
- 82 MiG
- 83 mileage
- 84 mile
- 85 miles per gallon
- 86 miles per hour
- 87 militant
- 88 Military
- 89 militate, mitigate
- 90 millennium, millennia
- 91 milligram
- 92 millimetre, but millimeter in American style
- 93 million
- 94 milquetoast
- 95 minimal
- 96 minuscule
- 97 miracles
- 98 mischievous, mischievously
- 99 mob
- 100 modalities
- 101 moderate
- 102 Mohammad
- 103 Muhammad
- 104 Monaco
- 105 money
- 106 moneyed
- 107 Mont Blanc
- 108 Montessori
- 109 months
- 110 Moonie
- 111 moot
- 112 more than
- 113 moribund
- 114 Mormon
- 115 Morse code
- 116 mortuary, not morgue
- 117 Moslem
- 118 mosquito
- 119 mother-in-law, mothers-in-law
- 120 Mother’s Day
- 121 mount
- 122 move
- 123 move to
- 124 mpg, mph
- 125 Ms
- 126 Muhammad
- 127 mujahideen
- 128 Mullah
- 129 multi
- 130 Mumbai
- 131 murder
- 132 Murphy's law
- 133 Muslim
- 134 mute
- 135 Myanmar
Macau, not Macao
Mach 1, Mach 2 etc. The Mach number is the ratio of an aircraft’s speed through the air compared with the speed of sound in the same conditions.
Use Malagasy for the people and the language.
Use this title or the Virgin Mary not Our Lady except in titles such as Our Lady of Czestochowa or in the names of churches.
Use Chennai, India.
Arabic word for school. Used to describe an Islamic religious school in some Muslim countries.
Lower case unless referring to a specific branch.
Loosely North Africa, less Egypt, and literally the western part of the Middle East. Maghreb is also the official name in Arabic of the Moroccan state.
Use letter carrier or postal worker (U.S.)
Use this word with care. As a verb of saying it can, like claim, suggest reporters are sceptical about the statement quoted.
Avoid as an adjective. If it is not superfluous find a precise alternative. One exception is golf, where the four biggest tournaments are known as the majors.
majority of, vast majority of
In election results a majority is more than half the votes, or more votes than all others combined. A plurality is more than the next highest number of votes. It may be less than 50 percent. An absolute majority is more than half the votes and a relative majority is more votes than anyone else.
When used alone, majority and plurality are usually followed by a singular verb.
U.S. political term. Capital when used as a formal title, e.g. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.
The people or language of Madagascar.
Adjective Maldivian, South Asia.
Country in West Africa; adjective Malian
People of Malta.
Humanity is preferable when referring to the human race.
Capital of the Philippines. Lower case for paper and envelopes.
manoeuvre, but in American style maneuver
Mantel is a frame around a fireplace. Mantle is a cloak or covering.
Make or maker is shorter.
Always check distances and directions given in a story by using a map. Check place names, too.
Capitalise when referring to the U.S. Marine Corps or when referring to its members. e.g. Six U.S. Marines, the U.S. Marines, Marine operations. Do not refer to them as "soldiers".
Not Marseilles, France.
marshal, marshalling, marshalled, but in American style marshal, marshaling, marshalled
The noun is an official in charge of ceremonies or military affairs, as in field marshal. The verb is to arrange in order. It is the Marshall Plan and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Do not confuse with martial, belonging to war or to the army or navy.
Not Massoua, Ethiopia.
Leading tournaments in men’s tennis. Capitalised and with no apostrophe, e.g. Rome Masters Series tournament.
Golf tournament. No apostrophe, the Masters on second reference.
Masterly means very skilful and worthy of a master or champion. Masterful is imperious and domineering. The champion put on a masterly display of putting but The CEO had a masterful way with his executives.
Two words in tennis and other racket sports’ scoring.
Use the English term military equipment.
Unless you mean take bodily form it is simpler to write happen or occur or take place.
May is about asking permission and can is about the ability to act. If we may borrow your car we can drive to the beach. May can also be about uncertainty. War may start tomorrow, or may not. War can start tomorrow because all the weapons are in place. Using may in headlines is overdone.
In the past tense may implies continued uncertainty, while might implies a possibility which did not happen. Manchester United may have signed a new striker (but they may have not). Manchester City might have won the cup (but they did not, because they failed to sign the striker).
May Day, mayday
May Day, capitalised, is the holiday, and mayday is the international distress call for ships and aircraft.
The wife of a mayor, not a female mayor.
McDonnell Douglas Corp
Not MacDonnell or McDonnell-Douglas for the U.S. aircraft company.
Use doctor, physician or surgeon.
meagre, but in American style meager
Place the word average where it correctly qualifies the item or quantity intended, e.g. Reporters drink an average of six cups of coffee a day. (Not: the average reporter drinks six cups of coffee a day). There are three types:(most often used) is calculated by adding all the constituent parts together and dividing by the number of parts.The middle value, meaning the number of values above it is the same as the number below it. The most commonly occurring value.
One of Islam’s Holy Places. Do not use in a colloquial sense since it is disparaging e.g. tourist mecca.
When abbreviating metric units use the singular form without a full stop, e.g. kg or km not kgs or kms. The following need not be spelled out on first mention: kg, km, lb, cm, mm. See also conversions, pound and ton/tonne.
Medal of Honor
The highest U.S. military honor, awarded by Congress. Do not refer to "Congressional Medal of Honor".
Medecins sans Frontieres
Literally Doctors without Borders, a group of volunteer doctors and other medical staff of various nationalities who operate with the agreement of the local government where they are needed, e.g. war, epidemics, famine. It has no political line. Spell out in first reference. At second reference abbreviate it to MSF and translate it. Take care when saying where MSF is based. There are different branches which act independently of each other. See www.msf.org
A plural noun.
Handle stories about new threats to health or reputed cures for AIDS, cancer and other scourges with great care They play on the hopes and fears of millions of people. If a story making dramatic claims for a cure for AIDS or cancer does not come from a reputable named source it must be checked with recognised medical experts.
U.S. federal state programme that helps pay for health care for the needy, elderly, blind and disabled and low-income families.
U.S. federal health care insurance program for people 65 and older and for the disabled.
He met party leaders, not He met with party leaders. Mete is distribute or apportion, and meet is fitting. You mete out meet punishment. The adjectival use should be avoided unless in direct quotation.
Avoid as a prefix meaning very large. Use only when it means one million.
A measure of explosive force. A megaton is equivalent to the explosive force of one million tons of TNT (trinitrotoluene).
The capacity and instantaneous output of a power station is measured in megawatts and its cumulative output is measured in megawatt hours.
For example, if a power plant produces electricity at a constant rate of 500 MW for an hour it will have produced 500 MWh. Or if it produces 1 MW of electricty constantly for a period of 500 hours it will also have produced 500 MWh.
Do not confuse megawatt MW (1 million watts, enough to power a train) with a milliwatt mW (one thousandth of a watt , enough to power a hearing aid).
An island group in the Southwest Pacific. Micronesia is a group north of Melanesia and Polynesia is in the central Pacific.
But menswear and womenswear.
Not Messerschmidt for the German aircraft or in the aerospace and armaments group Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Bloehm.
Capitalised in religious uses and lower case when used generically to mean a liberator.
Metal is copper or steel. Mettle is spirit, temperament or courage.
A fresh and vivid metaphor can add much to a story. But avoid mixed metaphors, e.g. The Egyptian swimmers walked away with the championships, and metaphors whose literal sense is absurd e.g., a growing bottleneck, which would solve rather than aggravate a problem.
Not metres for gas, electricity and parking meters.
metre, but meter in American style
Spell out in full, e.g. 100 metres. Convert metres to feet for short distances (up to 10 metres), to yards for longer distances. To convert to feet roughly add a zero and divide by three, precisely multiply by 3.28. To convert to yards roughly add a zero and divide by nine, precisely multiply by 1.094. In athletics and swimming results metre, kilometre and centimetre are no longer specified. The figure is enough. In sports reporting do not convert to feet or yards except for golf and U.S. sport.
We use both tons and tonnes, without having to give a conversion, but you must make clear what kind of ton(ne) is meant, using the terms long and short where appropriate. The three measures are:
tonne – 2,204.6 pounds (1,000 kg), formerly called metric ton
long ton – 2,240 pounds (or 20 hundredweights, 20 x 112 pounds).
short ton – 2,000 pounds, American ton
No hyphen unless the following word starts with a capital letter, e.g. mid-Pacific, mid-Atlantic. Cricket terms are an exception, e.g. mid-off, mid-on, mid-wicket. Also midterm, no hyphen. .
middle initials in names
Do not use them unless they are an essential distinguisher.
Never use in a headline or text. Use Middle East.
Note the lower case i. Use this abbreviation for the aircraft, e.g. MiG-25.
To convert to kilometres roughly multiply by 8 and divide by 5, precisely multiply by 1.609. One nautical or sea mile equals 1.853 km.
miles per gallon
Use the abbreviation mpg only for second and subsequent references.
miles per hour
Use the abbreviation mph only for second and subsequent references.
A non-state group or members of a non-state group who carry arms or believe in using force to achieve aims.
If in doubt, use the generic term or leave it out.
Avoid military jargon, which is particularly impenetrable. However, an attempt should be made to understand it. Jargon is encouraged in the armed forces to reduce the emotional element in the business of killing people, to encourage secrecy and to reduce the number of words in issuing orders. Faced by an inquisitive civilian, the military may deliberately obfuscate or evade admissions of defeat or error with an avalanche of esoteric terms and acronyms. Know them, but do not use them. For example collateral damage, military-speak for striking unintended targets, whether people or buildings. Also, friendly fire, which means attacking your own side by mistake in combat. Do not use either unless in quotes. Prefer plain English.
Similarly, avoid military metaphors.
air base – two words. So also air raid but airspace and airstrike.
AWACS – Airborne Warning And Control System. Aircraft equipped with search radar, height-finding radar and communications equipment for controlling weapons, generally other aircraft, surveillance and early warning. The United States uses modified Boeing 707s with rotating radar domes above the fuselage. The U.S. Navy uses a smaller AWACS, the twin-engine turboprop E2C Hawkeye with a revolving dome. It flies from aircraft carriers and is built by Northrop Grumman Corp.
Helicopters – Helicopters are also aircraft. A spokesman who mentions aircraft could be referring to fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters or both.
stealth – U.S. stealth aircraft are the F-117A Nighthawk fighter which is in fact a small bomber flown by a single crew member and designed for night attack on ground targets, not aerial warfare, and the larger B-2 “flying-wing” bomber manned by two or three crew and able to carry 16 2,000-pound (900 kg) satellite-guided bombs. Both aircraft are subsonic. They depend for their safety on carbon-based composite building materials and an unusual shape that absorbs radar signals or reflects them at angles which make the aircraft difficult to detect for useful periods of time. Do not capitalise stealth.
STOL – short take-off and landing. (See also VTOL)
strafe – to machinegun or rocket from the air. Do not use in referring to aerial bombing or ground-to-ground attacks.
UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The Predator is a U.S.-built UAV costing $3 million that is primarily used to collect intelligence but can act as an offensive weapon, sometimes equipped with two Hellfire missiles. The Global Hawk with a wingspan wider than a Boeing 737’s can loiter high above the area it is monitoring for more than 24 hours while the Dragoneye is a tiny unmanned scout aircraft for reconnaissance by ground troops.
VTOL – vertical take-off and landing. The British-designed AV-8B Harrier ‘jump jet’ developed in the 1960s is unique among jet fighters in being able to take off vertically.
warplane – One word. It is a useful one for the lead paragraph but it is better in most cases to be specific (fighter, bomber) although some aircraft can carry out a variety of missions, such as the F16. The Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt is a ground-attack aircraft designed to support ground forces. The Panavia Tornado is a multi-role combat aircraft. The B-52 is a long-range bomber. In financial stories and when dealing with contracts, sales and development, put the manufacturer’s name (and company) before the aircraft type.
If in doubt about the name of any of these just call it an armoured vehicle. An artillery piece such as a gun or howitzer may be mounted on tracks or wheels and be self-propelled. Journalists have mistaken self-propelled guns for tanks.
armoured fighting vehicle (AFV) – neither a tank nor an armoured personnel carrier, but a hybrid evolved in an era of fast-paced warfare in which infantry must keep up with tanks. An AFV like the Bradley Fighting Vehicle used by the U.S. military carries a squad of infantry. The Soviet-designed BMP-1 carries infantry and is armed with an anti-tank missile launcher and a 73mm gun. The British GKN Warrior is a 25-tonne tracked armoured vehicle with a 30mm cannon.
armoured personnel carrier (APC) – A tracked or wheeled vehicle that carries small groups of infantry into battle. It provides protection against small-arms fire and shell splinters, and may be armed with machineguns. The Soviet designed BTR-60 has gunports down the side.
tank – The main battlefield weapon, combining firepower, mobility and protection. They are tracked, and usually armed with a large gun of perhaps 105mm, 120mm or 130mm calibre firing with the help of computerised target selection and fire control. Shells hardened with depleted uranium may be used to pierce armour. The secondary armament consists of one or more machineguns. The M1-A1 and M1-A2 Abrams used by the U.S. army have top speeds of 40 mph (60 kph). The British Challenger tank is designed to survive nuclear, chemical and biological attack.
battlefield – one word. Also battlefront and battleground.
battledress – A loose, drab uniform, comprising a single overall or jacket and trousers, that blends in with the environment, provides protection against extreme weather and allows plenty of movement. Write soldiers in battle gear to refer to soldiers wearing the harness known as webbing that supports ammunition clips, grenades, water bottles, entrenching tools, ground sheet and rations.
BDA – Military shorthand for Bomb Damage Assessment. Avoid both unless in quotes. Spell out BDA in brackets if used in a quote
biological warfare – The use in warfare of micro-organisms to cause death or disease.
ceasefire – one word
chemical warfare – The use of chemicals other than explosives, e.g. gas.
fighting – This is relative. It ranges from hand-to-hand combat to the risk of an exchange of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Avoid ‘fierce’ fighting and ‘heavy’ fighting unless casualties are known to be heavy or the fire intense. Spell out what is meant. Avoid using ‘infantry fighting’ simply because combatants are on foot. It implies a set-piece engagement not, for instance, a few militiamen jumping garden walls and blasting away with rifles.
gunbattle – one word. So also gunfire as well as gunman and gunpoint.
no man’s land – no hyphens
offensive – An offensive is more specific than an attack. It is an extensive attack over days, weeks or months often on a wide front or an entire theatre of a campaign or war by air, sea or ground forces and sometimes all three.
raid – Use only when a force attacks and then leaves an objective, as opposed to occupying it.
Ranks should never be abbreviated and should be capitalised when referring to a specific individual.
In general, ranks in the armed forces of the main English-speaking countries such as the United States, Britain and Australia are not hyphenated, eg Lieutenant Colonel, Rear Admiral, Air Chief Marshal. However, there are exceptions, such as Canada and India,. which hyphenate their titles and we should follow the local practice.
At second and subsequent reference, use the surname OR his or her rank, eg Major General John Brown becomes either Brown or the general (not the major general).
Ranks in the non-English-speaking world should be translated without hyphens.
warship – A naval vessel, though not necessarily an armed one. The term does imply the ship is a combatant but a fleet auxiliary – a navy ship carrying stores, fuel and ammunition – is a warship. Warships vary in armament and in size, from a few hundred tonnes to tens of thousands. Identify the type – e.g. fast patrol-boat, corvette, frigate, destroyer, cruiser. Never use battleship as a synonym for warship.
aircraft carrier – A floating airfield, it carries fixed-wing aircraft on its flight deck and/or helicopters. It should not be confused with other classes of warship, such as frigate, destroyer or cruiser. These may also carry helicopters but they are not aircraft carriers.
assault ship – A warship designed to support amphibious and air operations against a land- based enemy. They carry helicopters, landing craft, commandos or marines, and may carry amphibious armoured vehicles.
battleship – A specific class of warship, the battleship is obsolete. It is not to be confused with other classes like corvette, minesweeper, patrol boat, frigate, destroyer. Do not use as a synonym for warship.
submarine – In naval parlance a boat rather than a ship. A submarine may fight submerged or on the surface, using torpedoes or missiles – the missiles being tactical or strategic. There are two main submarine types depending on the method of propulsion: nuclear and diesel electric.
Units, formations, army – Use capitals when you write the title of a specific unit e.g. the 1st Infantry Division but otherwise say division. Also note that there are many national exceptions to these broad definitions.
squad – The basic building block of an army, equivalent to the British section of eight soldiers. Three squads or sections form a platoon.
platoon – The essential tactical unit in any army, capable of patrolling, attacking and defending independently. Usually about 30-strong, an infantry
platoon typically has three sections or squads. The platoon may be led by a sergeant or a junior commissioned officer. It may have its own light machinegun and mortar units of two or three men each as well as anti-tank weapons and possibly shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles. In a cavalry (armoured) unit the platoon is often called a troop of three or four vehicles. Some armies use troop instead of platoon in their artillery units.
company – usually three platoons commanded by a major or captain. In a cavalry unit the term squadron may be used. Artillery may be organised in batteries of six to a dozen guns, rocket-launchers or mortars.
battalion – the basic building block of any big military formation, a battalion comprises about 500 to 1,000 soldiers, broken down into companies, platoons, squads or sections. It is usually commanded by a lieutenant-colonel. It is the highest single-arm unit in many armies i.e. infantry, armoured or engineer battalion. Higher formations tend to be mixed and comprise, for instance, infantry and tank battalions. Some armies use the term regiment for a tank or artillery battalion.
brigade – Several battalions or regiments grouped together. Commanded by a brigadier, as in the British Army, or brigadier-general. Some armies confuse reporters by using regiment to mean a brigade.
division – A group of brigades. Usually commanded by a major-general, it can contain all elements needed to operate independently and is then effectively a small self-contained army.
corps – Usually at least two divisions. Often commanded by a lieutenant-general.
army – At least two corps. Tends to be the command of a full five-star general or, a marshal or field marshal. The army group – of several armies – was a feature of the big land battles of World War Two.
infantry – Soldiers who fight on foot. Traditionally, infantry marched into battle. Mechanised infantry refers to foot soldiers carried to the battlefield in trucks. In modern armies, infantry is carried into battle in armoured vehicles, supported by tanks and artillery.
regiment – Be careful with this term. Use varies. Find out precisely what is meant in any particular case. It can be used as a synonym for either a battalion or a brigade. Also, a regiment in the British army may have one or more battalions but these rarely serve together as or in a brigade. The 1st battalion of the Royal Halberdiers may be part of an armoured brigade formed for service in the Middle East while the 2nd battalion of the same regiment is in Scotland.
special forces – Anything from the U.S. Rangers, Russia’s Spetsnaz and Britain’s Special Air Service Regiment to thugs with weapons. So-called special forces have been known to carry out such “special tasks” as ethnic cleansing, i.e. killing civilians. Use with care. Also avoid using the subjective terms crack and elite.
squadron – As with regiment, be careful. Many but not all cavalry (armoured) regiments are broken down into squadrons and troops. Some air forces are organised on the basis of squadrons – each with several flights – and grouped as wings. The term squadron may also refer to a group of ships, a small fleet usually put together for some particular task.
task force – A force organised for a special operation.
troops – Use in the plural for large, round numbers – scores, hundreds, thousands – of soldiers, not for small specific numbers. France sent 5,000 troops to the Gulf is right. Guerrillas killed three government troops is wrong. A troop may also be a small unit of armour or guns.
air-to-ground – hyphenate. Also anti-aircraft.
artillery – a weapon that provides indirect fire over long distances. It comprises guns, howitzers, large mortars, multiple-rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns and missiles. Avoid saying “big guns” or “heavy artillery” to dramatise events. Some armies use heavy artillery only for guns of a calibre of 203mm and up.
automatic weapon -- reloads itself and keeps firing as long as the trigger is pressed. A semi-automatic reloads itself but the trigger has to be pressed for each shot. Many types of rifle offer the option of automatic fire and semi-automatic. A pistol is not an automatic weapon, but a machine-pistol is.
ballistic missile – A missile that is initially powered and may be guided but falls under gravity on to its target. It is fired upwards and then comes down. Some missiles, although not many, fly on a flat trajectory and are therefore not ballistic missiles, e.g. a cruise missile.
bullet – the projectile fired from a pistol, rifle or machinegun. It is distinguished from the spent cartridge case ejected from the weapon. The entire cartridge comprises cartridge case, priming charge, propellant and bullet.
bunker buster – an air-launched, laser-guided U.S. bomb of around 5,000 lb (2,270 kg) used to penetrate hardened concrete structures, often underground.
calibre – the calibre of a weapon that fires bullets, or rounds, is the internal diameter of its barrel. It is expressed in millimetres or decimal fractions of an inch, e.g. a 12.7mm machinegun is equivalent to the U.S.-designed .50 calibre machinegun. Other examples: a 155mm howitzer, a 105mm field gun, an eight-inch gun, a.22 pistol, a Colt.45, a.38 revolver.
cannon – A light, fast-firing weapon used to engage aircraft, ground or seaborne targets. It can be mounted in aircraft or on a truck, a tank chassis, a fast patrol boat or as the main armament on an armoured vehicle. It often has more than one barrel, and typically varies in calibre from 20mm up to 40mm. Cannon as a synonym for artillery is archaic and should be avoided.
cluster bomb – Released from the air and contains around 200 bomblets that can penetrate armour or kill anyone stepping on them.
cruise missile – A missile like the U.S. Tomahawk guided to its target using terrain-mapping radar. It can be a ground-launched cruise missile (GL-CM) or air-launched (ALCM). They can also be launched from ships and submarines. Do not capitalise cruise.
Daisy Cutter – a large 6,800 kg (15,000 lb) U.S. bomb
e-bomb – energy pulse bomb. This emits high-power microwave signals intended to cripple enemy electronics.
gun – A long-range artillery weapon that fires shells through a rifled barrel over a considerable distance. A gun may be towed or self-propelled, when it moves under its own power on tracks or wheels, with the crew provided with some degree of armoured protection.
howitzer – An artillery piece with a relatively short barrel designed to fire at a high angle over hills or fortifications. It may be towed or it may be self-propelled.
ICBM – Intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of about 3,500 miles.
IRBM – Intermediate range ballistic missile
machinegun – A fully automatic weapon. A light machinegun typically provides a squad or section of soldiers with fire support. Although it is called light it may be heavier than a rifle. An example is the U.S. 5.56mm M-60. A heavy machinegun is “heavy” in terms of its calibre, not its weight. It may be used to provide the main armament on a troop carrier or the secondary armament on a tank. Do not confuse with a sub-machinegun which is lighter and designed for individual rather than group use.
machine pistol – An old term for a weapon superseded by the sub-machinegun. Use the expression machine pistol only when a weapon is specifically designated as such by the manufacturer or armed forces using it.
MIRV – Multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle. Each of the warheads carried by this ICBM can be aimed at a different target.
MOAB – Massive Ordnance Air Blast. A 9,750 kg (21,500 lb) bomb known as the “Mother of All Bombs”.
mortar – a mortar fires a bomb, not a shell, from a tube. It is therefore wrong to say mortars exploded at the airport. It is correct to say mortar bombs or mortar rounds did so. The mortar bomb has fins to stabilise it in flight. It is lobbed at the target, describing a steep parabola and falling almost vertically. It can strike behind a hill, house or wall, or hit troops in trenches. Small mortars are carried by infantry, larger ones may be mounted or towed.
multiple-rocket launcher – A number of tubes or racks, usually mounted on a vehicle and capable of firing rockets singly or in salvos.
recoilless rifle – An anti-tank weapon. Although largely ineffective against most modern tanks, it is still widely used by guerrillas or militias in many countries. It looks like a tube, slightly flared at the rear end, is often mounted on wheels and is recoilless in the sense that gases from the weapon’s discharge are allowed to escape from the rear of the weapon. It fires an anti-tank round. Do not confuse it with a mortar or a howitzer.
rifle – It has a rifled barrel, imparting spin to the bullet to help give range and stability. The trend is towards lighter, shorter and smaller calibre rifles. The automatic rifle is the infantry’s standard weapon with an effective range of 300 to 1,200 yards. It may be semi-automatic, automatic or both. Bolt-action rifles, in which each cartridge is manually placed in the breech using a bolt mechanism, are still used by snipers because of their accuracy, range and reliability.
RPG – Rocket-propelled grenade.
sub-machinegun – An automatic weapon with many of the characteristics of a machinegun – fully automatic, a high rate of fire – but it is lighter, shorter, of smaller calibre and is designed for the individual rather than the group. It can be easily concealed. Its small size and light weight make it ideal for combat in built-up areas, for guerrilla warfare and for airborne forces. It has a short range, and is less accurate than a rifle or machinegun. Definitions are blurred: a Kalashnikov AK-47 was designated a sub-machinegun by the former Soviet armed forces but is known as an assault rifle in the West.
SAM – Surface-to-air missile, launched from the surface against an aircraft or another missile.
SLBM – Ship- or submarine-launched ballistic missile.
unconventional weapon – Avoid. It is often used by “conventional” military forces to refer to effective methods or weapons they do not have, do not understand and generally disapprove of. Using a bamboo spike smeared with excrement may have been unconventional to the U.S. soldier impaled on it, but it came naturally to a Vietnamese irregular. Depending on who is speaking, the term “unconventional weapons” might also mean nuclear, germ or chemical weapons. Be specific.
WMD – The abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction. Spell out on first reference. Usually taken to mean biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
Militate means to have force or influence and is often used in the phrase to militate against. Do not confuse with mitigate which means to alleviate or to moderate.
From the Latin mille, a thousand, and annus, a year.
millimetre, but millimeter in American style
Use mm with no space, e.g. 30mm cannon.
The word is spelled out but the abbreviation mln can be used for the sake of brevity in headlines. Use numerals before million, 6 million. Do not go beyond two decimla places.
A character easily dominated, not milk toast.
The least possible size or amount. Do not confuse with small or even tiny.
Prefer very small or unimportant.
Keep miracles for religious stories. In disaster reports avoid the cliché: “It was a miracle no one was killed,” said a rescue worker.
Use this word with care and never of a political protest. The neutral crowd is usually better unless there is an outbreak of unorganised violence.
Use means, procedures.
Use with care. Often used to describe Islam or Muslims in a particular country, implying a value judgment.
Use this form for the Prophet and for anyone else of this name unless we know that he prefers an alternative spelling or an alternative appears in an official title or name for an organisation.
Not Monte Carlo as dateline.
Not monied, but prefer rich or wealthy.
At 15,771 feet/4,807 metres, this French mountain is the highest in western Europe. But the highest mountain in Europe is Elbrus (18,481 feet/5,633 metres) in the Caucasus.
Abbreviate to Jan. Feb. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. and Dec. with a full stop when used with a specific date, Feb. 12, but spell out in full when used alone or with only the year, February 2002. In datelines and headlines, months are given as follows: Jan, Feb, March, April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec, without full stop.
A perjorative term for members of the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. We should not use it in copy and avoid it when possible in direct quotations. See religious terms
Little understood outside the United States. If you use the phrase a moot point in a quote, explain it – a debatable point.
Use more than with numbers and over with less specific quantities. More than 100 or over half.
About to die or in a dying state. It does not mean something is weak or stagnant or not growing.
A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon Church. Only the “L” is capitalised in “Latter-day.” The Church claims eight million members worldwide.
mortuary, not morgue
Use Muslim in all cases.
Not Mothers’ Day.
give the full name, whether of mountains or communities, e.g. Mount Everest, Mount Vernon.
Avoid as a noun. Prefer decision, agreement, or another more precise alternative.
This phrase is often used to give a spurious sense of physical action when in fact the only action has been verbal, e.g. Clinton moved to head off congressional opposition to his budget plans when he said.... Avoid it.
miles per gallon, miles per hour – both acceptable at second and subsequent references, both lower case and without full stops. Spell out miles per gallon and miles per hour in full on first reference.
Not used, as also Mr, Mrs, Miss, Master.
A term for Islamic guerrilla groups, meaning holy warriors.
A Muslim scholar. Most often used pejoratively to refer to clerics in Iran, although it is a neutral term for Muslim prayer leaders in Afghanistan. Avoid in Iranian context and never use as shorthand for Tehran’s religious-political leadership unless quoting somebody.
Words starting with multi are not hyphenated – multilateral, multinational, multicultural, multilingual
Not Bombay, India unless in a proper name.
Use this word only of violent deaths that have no political overtones and generally avoid unless there has been a conviction. Otherwise stick to killing unless the word murder is used in a criminal charge or trial.
if something can go wrong, it will. Avoid, but explain if in a quote.
Describes someone who is physically unable to speak. Do not use dumb. People who have difficulty speaking are speech impaired.
Category: The Reuters General Style Guide
This page was last modified 12:18, 10 November 2010.