corrections are rarely needed before signature. In
some situations, you will be the one to determine
the type of correspondence to be used. To fulfill
those requirements, you must understand the
basic policies and procedures for preparing the
various types of correspondence.
Preparation of Correspondence
You or someone else at the departmental level
prepares the rough draft of official outgoing
correspondence. Persons of higher authority
within the department then chop, or edit, the
rough before it is sent to the executive officer or
the administrative assistant for approval. Based
on that premise, we will not attempt to explain
and illustrate minute details regarding format
requirements. The Department of the Navy
Correspondence Manual, SECNAV Instruction
5216.5C, amply covers format requirements.
However, the last section of this chapter covers
naval writing standards.
Before starting the letter, decide whether
you should use a Navy Mailed Message (NAV-
GRAM), a message, or a routine memorandum.
That will require you to determine the nature of
the communication. First, be sure exactly what
the communication should accomplish. Next,
consider factors such as format, references,
enclosures, and the type of communication re-
When preparing correspondence, bear in mind
that the usual purpose of Navy mail is to provide
the reader with concisely stated information.
If you turn out a confused, rambling, lengthy
masterpiece, you only create an editing chore for
the drafting officer. You may wind up doing the
whole thing over. The following are some of the
usual causes of confusion and rambling in a letter:
Failure to follow the basic pattern of the
subject (purpose, circumstances, action)
Inclusion of more than a single idea
in a sentence, more than one central
thought in a paragraph, or more than a
single subject in the letter
Failure to consider the readers (Can they
misinterpret your wording?)
Once you understand what the letter is to
accomplish, you should follow certain steps to
ensure good organization and continuity:
1. Arrange information in a logical order.
2. Complete each unit of information before
moving on to the next.
3. Maintain continuity by providing transition
from one unit of information to another.
In the first paragraph, state the purpose of the
letter. In the following paragraphs, explain the
circumstances and the action to be taken (give
orders, make requests, give consent, or refuse
permission). Be sure you follow a logical order;
for example, first explain the problem (or
circumstance); then give each step the reader
should take to resolve the problem. Maintain
continuity by showing the connection between one
point of information and the next. For example,
you might tell the reader certain information
involves several methods and then immediately
name those methods.
When the letter is in answer to or closely
related to another letter, the first sentence should
refer to that letter.
Example: 1. Reference (a) requested informa-
tion about the allowance lists for
the next 3 fiscal years. Reference (b)
pointed out that such informa-
tion is available for only 2 years in
advance . . . .
No rule exists about the number of paragraphs
one unit of information should contain. In letters
of average length, each significant unit of
information may be one paragraph. However,
some units of information may require more than
one paragraph to explain. Other explanations may
be so simple that a single paragraph makes up the
entire body of the correspondence. No matter how
many paragraphs you write, be sure to follow the
rules for good organization and continuity.
TARGET DATE. The first step you should
take when assigned a writing task is to determine
the deadline or target date of the correspondence.
That will allow you to budget your time effec-
tively. Remember, not only must you draft the
correspondence, but you must allow for others
to review, revise, and type the correspondence.
Then the final or smooth copy must be reviewed,
corrected, and signed before the correspondence
FIRST DRAFT. Before writing the first
draft of any correspondence, refer to any related
correspondence to see how it is organized and
worded. Note all the points you should cover.