Saturday, January 23, 2010

Translating Military Experience

Over the past few months while I was working on my business school application, I ran into a problem that has plagued soldiers since war began: how to translate military experience into terms that would make sense to a civilian.

First of course, is cutting out the jargon. Words and acronyms like collateral damage, NCO, area of operations, XO, SP, CONOP, or commander's intent simply do not mean much to most civilians without proper framing.

After this is the task of relating the experiences of the military in ways that make sense to anyone. A useful way to do this is to use numbers. Though a civilian may not know what the term "Division" means, they can definitely relate to an organization of "16,000 people."

Then there is the issue of punctuation and syntax. The military capitalizes just about everything. However, the rest of the world does not. Further, the military is based around extraordinarily simple sentence structure. It takes deliberate effort to find ways to change from the short, straightforward, relatively boring method of miliatry writing into a more robust and engaging writing style. Rewriting and rewriting are the keys to successfully accomplishing this transformation.

Once it seems as though everything is well translated, it is time to have a civilian read it. Have a friend who is not in the military check over it and let you know which parts are confusing or need clarification. Then continue the rewriting process until your experiences are conveyed clearly and in a way that emphasizes the strengths that you have gained from your service.