Australian Defence Force

Use the correct title and style to refer to members of the armed services. This guidance is intended primarily for users outside the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force.

Use terminology correctly

Use the term ‘Defence’ when you mean both the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force (ADF). ‘Defence’ is used to represent the organisation as a whole.

‘Defence’ has an initial capital when it is part of a formal name or title. Use lower case for generic references.

Use ‘Australian Defence Force’ and ‘ADF’ when referring to the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force, commanded by the Chief of the Defence Force.

Use ‘Department of Defence’ when referring to the department, headed by the Secretary of the Department of Defence.

Example

  • Defence engages with industry to deliver procurement outcomes that support departmental and ADF capability.
  • The institute’s paper examines the implications for our defence strategy over the next decade.
  • The aim is to support Australian Defence Force personnel and their families as they transition from military to civilian life.
  • The Department of Defence operates under the Public Service Act 1999.

Follow the order of precedence for the 3 arms of the ADF

There are 3 arms of the ADF, known collectively as the ‘services’ (‘Services’ inside Defence). When referring to the services, follow the order of precedence established by the Defence Act 1903:

  • Royal Australian Navy
  • Australian Army
  • Royal Australian Air Force.

Always use initial capitals when writing the short names of the services:

  • Navy
  • Army
  • Air Force.

Example

  • Defence Reserves are an essential part of the Navy, Army and Air Force

Address members of the ADF by rank, name and post-nominals

Use the following order to address members of the ADF:

  • rank
  • given name or initials
  • family name
  • post-nominals
  • service (for commissioned officers in the Navy only).

Do this:

  • the first time you write their name in body text
  • in address blocks in correspondence
  • when introducing an ADF member as speaker
  • in official records of proceedings
  • in lists in organisational publications such as annual reports.

ADF ranks are listed in the table ‘Ranks and salutations’.

Example

  • Rear Admiral Robert W Plath AM RAN
  • Major General Susan Coyle CSC DSM
  • Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld AO DSC
  • [Don’t use commas]

If you mention the name again in body text, use rank and family name.

Example

  • Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale CSM is a Kuku Yalanji man of the Western Sunset Clan. He was born in Nambour and joined the Navy in 1991. Chief Petty Officer Rosendale now has a role advising the Navy on First Nations cultural affairs.

Only one rank has a hyphen

Write military ranks of more than one word as separate words. Do not hyphenate the rank.

There is one exception from the Air Force: Air Vice-Marshal. It is always hyphenated.

Example

  • Acting Sub Lieutenant DW Midson RAN
  • Warrant Officer Class One K Felmingham NSC OAM
  • Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts AM CSC

Post-nominals

Post-nominals are letters after a name that stand for academic, civil and military awards and honours.

Write post-nominals after the family name. Place post-nominals before the shortened form showing service (‘RAN’).

Make sure you write post-nominals in the right order.

Don’t use commas before or between post-nominals.

Example

  • Commander Algirdus Diciunas MBE CSM RAN
  • Major General Natasha Fox AM CSC
  • Air Commodore Michael Kitcher AM DSC

Use ‘RAN’ to indicate Navy service for commissioned officers

Use ‘RAN’ (Royal Australian Navy) for all commissioned officers of the Navy. Place ‘RAN’ after the family name and any post-nominals.

Don’t use an acronym to show service for officers in the Army or Air Force.

In Defence, ‘RAN’ is used to distinguish naval officers from officers in the other services and from naval officers in other countries.

Gazettal notices of Australian awards and honours follow this style. For consistency, Style Manual recommends that Australian Government organisations also follow this practice.

Example

  • Captain Catherine Wilsen AO [Army]
  • Captain Stephen Beckman AO CSC RAN [Navy]

Write the rank before the title of ADF members who are knighted

When someone has a military rank and another title such as ‘Sir’, ‘Dame’ or ‘the Honourable’, place the military rank first.

Example

  • General Sir Monash GCMG KBE VD

Address chaplains and maritime spiritual wellbeing officers by title

Army and Air Force chaplains wear military rank.

Navy chaplains and maritime spiritual wellbeing officers (MSWOs) do not wear military rank. Instead, they wear chaplaincy or MWSO insignia and a service badge with the symbol of their faith or purpose. This gives them ‘floating rank’, meaning they take on the rank of the person they are talking to.

Address chaplains with their chaplaincy title, not a military rank.

MSWOs have been part of the Navy since 2020. Address them with their MSWO title, not a military rank.

Include any post-nominals.

The chaplaincy titles are:

  • Principal Chaplain (Navy and Army) and Principal Air Chaplain (Air Force)
  • Senior Chaplain (Navy) and Chaplain (Navy, Army and Air Force).

The MSWO titles include:

  • Principal Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer
  • Senior Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer
  • Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer.

Example

  • Principal Chaplain Darren Jaensch [Army]
  • Principal Air Chaplain Kevin Russell CSC GAICD [Air Force]
  • Senior Chaplain Brian Rayner OAM RAN [Navy]
  • Chaplain Catherine Inches-Ogden CSC [Army]
  • Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer Tammy Dunne [Navy]

Address retired officers of the ADF by rank

Commissioned officers who retire can continue to use their military rank. When writing their name, use their rank and include ‘(Retd)’ after any post-nominals.

Example

  • General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK CVO MC (Retd)

Avoid using the shortened forms of ranks

For internal Defence use, it is common to write the ranks in abbreviated form using capital letters.

Don’t follow this convention in other types of content. Write the full rank with an initial capital letter.

Write this

Lieutenant T Smith [Outside Defence]

Not this

LT T Smith [Defence only]

Address members of the ADF correctly in emails and letters

The style rule for address blocks applies to all members of the ADF.

The style rule for salutations changes with rank.

Address blocks

To write an address block, follow all preceding rules on this page.

The style of address blocks is the same for all ranks.

  • rank
  • given name or initials
  • family name
  • post-nominals
  • ‘RAN’ for commissioned officers in the Navy
  • ‘(Retd)’for retired commissioned officers who retain rank
  • postal address.

Example

  • Brigadier Ana Duncan AM CSC
    Commandant Royal Military College-Duntroon
    Staff Cadet Avenue
    Campbell ACT 2612

    Lieutenant General Gregory Bilton AO CSC
    Chief Joint Operations
    Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC)
    PO Box 7928
    Canberra BC ACT 2610

    His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd)
    Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia
    Government House
    Dunrossil Drive
    Yarralumla ACT 2600

Salutations

Style Manual follows the ADF’s style for salutations.

The style of salutations depends on rank.

Don’t include post-nominals in salutations.

Never add a comma after salutations.

Commissioned officer ranks

Rule: Dear [Rank]

Use the rule for these ranks:

  • Admiral, Rear Admiral, Commodore and Captain (Navy)
  • General, Lieutenant General, Major General, Brigadier and Colonel (Army)
  • Air Chief Marshal, Air Marshal, Air Vice-Marshal, Air Commodore and Group Captain (Air Force).
Example
  • Brigadier Ana Duncan AM CSC [Address block]
  • Dear Brigadier [Salutation]

Rule: Dear [Rank Family name]

Use the rule for these ranks:

  • Commander, Lieutenant Commander and Lieutenant (Navy)
  • Lieutenant Colonel, Major and Captain (Army)
  • Wing Commander, Squadron Leader and Flight Lieutenant (Air Force).
Example
  • Lieutenant Commander Siobhan Sturdy CSM RAN [Address block]
  • Dear Lieutenant Commander Sturdy [Salutation]

Rule: Dear [Honorific Family name]

Use the rule for these ranks:

  • Sub Lieutenant, Acting Sub Lieutenant and Midshipman (Navy)
  • Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant and Officer Cadet (Army)
  • Flying Officer, Pilot Officer and Officer Cadet (Air Force).

ADF style is to use a conventional title before the family name for these ranks.

Use the honorifics ‘Ms’, ‘Mr’, ‘Mx’, ‘Mrs’ or ‘Dr’ when it is possible to identify the appropriate title. If this is difficult, follow the ‘Dear [Rank Family name]' rule.

Example
  • Officer Cadet Dean Collins OAM [Address block]
  • Dear Mr Collins [Preferred salutation]
  • Dear Officer Cadet Collins [Alternative salutation]

Other ranks

Rule: Dear [Rank Family name]

Use the rule for ranks from:

  • Warrant Officer of the Navy to Recruit (Navy)
  • Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army to Recruit (Army)
  • Warrant officer of the Air Force to Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman (Air Force).
Example
  • Lance Corporal A Fenech BM [Address block]
  • Dear Lance Corporal Fenech [Salutation]

Chaplains and MSWOs

Salutations for ADF chaplains and maritime spiritual wellbeing officers do not change with rank.

Rule: Dear [Chaplaincy title]

Rule: Dear [MSWO title]

Example
  • Chaplain Jui-Hsiang Su CSM [Address block]
    Dear Chaplain [Salutation]

    Principal Air Chaplain Rodger Boerth AM [Address block]
    Dear Principal Air Chaplain [Salutation]

    Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer J Chan RAN [Address block]
    Dear Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer [Salutation]

Other examples appear in the table that follows.

Ranks and salutations (in order of precedence)

Navy Army Air Force Salutation rule
Salutation example
Appointed by Governor-General of Australia
Admiral of the Fleet Field Marshal Marshal of the Royal Australian Air Force No current appointments
Commissioned officer ranks
Admiral (when Chief of the Defence Force) General (when Chief of the Defence Force) Air Chief Marshal (when Chief of the Defence Force) Dear [Rank]
Dear Admiral
Vice Admiral Lieutenant General Air Marshal Dear [Rank]
Dear Lieutenant General
Rear Admiral Major General Air Vice-Marshal Dear [Rank]
Dear Air Vice-Marshal
Commodore Brigadier Air Commodore Dear [Rank]
Dear Commodore
Captain Colonel Group Captain Dear [Rank]
Dear Colonel
Commander Lieutenant Colonel Wing Commander Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Wing Commander Smith
Lieutenant Commander Major Squadron Leader Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Lieutenant Commander Mabo
Lieutenant Captain Flight Lieutenant Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Captain Tatipata
Sub Lieutenant Lieutenant Flying Officer Dear [Ms/Mr/Mx/Mrs/Dr Family name]*
Dear Ms Rossi
Acting Sub Lieutenant Second Lieutenant Pilot Officer Dear [Ms/Mr/Mx/Mrs/Dr Family name]*
Dear Mr Müller
Midshipman Officer Cadet Officer Cadet Dear [Ms/Mr/Mx/Mrs/Dr Family name]*
Dear Dr Wong
Navy Army Air Force Salutation rule
Salutation example
Other ranks including warrant officers and non-commissioned officers
Warrant Officer of the Navy Regimental Sergeant Major of the Army Warrant Officer of the Air Force Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Warrant Officer Patel
Warrant Officer Warrant Officer Class 1 Warrant Officer Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Warrant Officer Pappas (for all 3 ranks)
Chief Petty Officer Warrant Officer Class 2 Flight Sergeant Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Warrant Officer Wikilyiri
Staff Sergeant Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Staff Sergeant Ivanov
Petty Officer Sergeant Sergeant Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Sergeant Andersson
Leading Seaman Corporal Corporal Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Leading Seaman Setiawan
Lance Corporal Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Lance Corporal Lim
Able Seaman Leading Aircraftman
Leading Aircraftwoman
Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Leading Aircraftman Johnson
Seaman Private Aircraftwoman
Aircraftman
Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Aircraftwoman Garcia
Trainee Trainee Trainee Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Trainee Ferran
Recruit Recruit Aircraftwoman Recruit
Aircraftman Recruit
Dear [Rank Family name]
Dear Recruit Rarru
Dear Aircraftman Recruit De Jong
Navy Army Air Force Salutation rule
Salutation example
Chaplains
Principal Chaplain
Senior Chaplain
Principal Chaplain
Chaplain
Principal Air Chaplain
Chaplain
Dear [Chaplaincy title]
Dear Chaplain Pope
Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officers
Principal Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer

Senior Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer

Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer
Dear [Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer title]

Dear Senior Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer

* If it's difficult to establish the person's preferred honorific, use the rule ‘Dear [Rank Family name]'.

 

Release notes

Guidance in the digital edition broadly follows the Australian Defence Force writing manual (an internal Defence resource). There are also style conventions in the writing manual that the digital edition does not follow.

The digital edition consolidates information from the sixth edition and provides updated examples. It has advice on capitalisation for internal military use that was not in the sixth edition.

The digital edition outlines the order of precedence for the armed services and includes new guidance about maritime spiritual wellbeing officers.

The sixth edition had a table of armed service ranks in Australia. The digital edition has a table of ranks and associated salutation rules.

Examples in the digital edition do not follow the sixth edition’s requirement for a comma before and between post-nominals. This is consistent with this edition’s recommendation to use minimal punctuation.

The Content Guide did not have information about forms of address and ranks for the ADF.

About this page

References

Air Force (Royal Australian Air Force) (n.d.) Our leaders, Air Force website, accessed 20 August 2021.

Army (Australian Army) (n.d.) Our leaders, Army website, accessed 26 August 2021.

Army(n.d.) Ranks, Army website, accessed 4 July 2022.

Australian War Memorial (n.d.) Collection, Australian War Memorial website, accessed 14 June 2022.

Craig J (11 May 2020) ‘New chaplaincy branch reflects secular care option’, Defence News, Defence website, accessed 30 August 2021.

Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal (2020) Navy Maritime Spiritual Wellbeing Officer, DFRT website, accessed 10 June 2022.

Department of Defence (2008) Australian Defence Force: badges of rank and special insignia, Department of Defence, Canberra.

Department of Defence (2014) Australian Defence Force writing manual, Defence Publishing Service, Canberra.

Department of Defence (2021) Defence annual report 2020–2021, Defence website, accessed 2 June 2022.

Department of Defence (n.d.) ‘Equivalent ranks and classifications’, ADF pay and conditions manual, Defence website, accessed 10 November 2021.

Department of Defence (n.d.) Procurement and contracting, Defence website, accessed 2 June 2022.

Devlin D (1 June 2021) ‘Navy's Indigenous advisers drive change’, Defence News, Defence website, accessed 30 August 2021.

Directorate of History Services (2019) House style for authors, editors and publishers [PDF 1.47MB], Air Force website, accessed 19 August 2021.

PM&C (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) (n.d.) It’s an honour, PM&C website, accessed 4 July 2022.

PM&C (n.d.) Order of wearing, PM&C website, accessed 4 July 2022.

National Archives of Australia (n.d.) Abbreviations used in World War I and World War II service records, National Archives of Australia website, accessed 27 August 2021.

Navy (Royal Australian Navy) (n.d.) Ranks of the Royal Australian Navy, Navy website, accessed 4 July 2022.

Navy (n.d.) Royal Australian Navy personnel biographies, Navy website, accessed 26 August 2021.

Navy (n.d.) Senior leadership team, Navy website, accessed 10 August 2021.

Rosendale R (April 2015) ‘Chief Petty Officer Ray Rosendale, CSM [PDF 2.52MB]’ Reconciliation News, Reconciliation Australia website, accessed 30 August 2021.

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia (2020) About the Governor-General, The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia website, accessed 4 July 2022.

The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia (n.d.) Australian honours and awards, The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia website, accessed 4 July 2022.

This page was updated Thursday 4 August 2022.

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