Air Force Handbook (AFH) 33-337 - The Tongue and Quill

Air Force Guide to Effective Communications

You'll spend a significant amount of time during AFBMT in the classroom. Official USAF Photo

The need for clear and effective communications among the Air Force, other Department of Defense (DoD) service branches, and civilian authorities is so vital that it was actually written into law. 

The Plain Writing Act of 2010

It's The Law:  Use of military jargon, constant acronyms, and poor written and speaking skills by members of all military branches and government departments, has prompted the US Government to create a law to enhance communication efforts within the system of conducting government business.

   The US Government has tried to improve their ability to speak in a non-confusing manner with the public officials they serve since its founding. Public Law 111-274, Plain Writing Act of 2010, is the most recent mandate to target unclear language in government documents. The Plain Writing Act is implemented in the Department of Defense by DoD Instruction 5025.13, DoD Plain Language Program, which “promotes the use of clear, concise, and well organized language in documents to effectively communicate with intended audiences.”

The Air Force Handbook (AFH) 33-337 is the military branch's answer to creating better speakers, writers, and presenters.  The Tongue and Quill is dedicated to every man and woman in today's Air Force who will ever write a white paper, send emails and other correspondence, give a presentation / briefing, or create staff packages to support the mission. Currently, The Tongue and Quill is widely used by Air Force military and civilian members, professional military school educators and students, and civilian corporations around the United States.

 Businesses with military contracts are

Technology May Change But Communication Skills Are Constant

Being a good writer and speaker are skill sets that must be taught, learned, and practiced on a near daily basis. When people ask how they can prepare for a military career while in school (high school and college) it is important to realize that you will have a need to communicate constantly.

 Military members will either communicate via email, have face to face meetings, or other written or spoken presentations with commanding officers and subordinates up and down your chain of command.  The ability to communicate effectively can be a determining factor between you getting a promotion,or a future position in the government, or not. 

The men and women of the United States Air Force must be effective communicators to clearly and effectively carry out Air Force and Joint Combat missions.  Although the members of the Air Force are technically skilled to communicate using a wide variety of methods, the ability to write and speak concisely and clearly is a military requirement.  Ineffective communications can lead to grey areas or confusion during mission critical times.  In an era of rapid personal and mass communication that was barely imagined just a few years ago, the Air Force still requires face-to-face briefings, background papers, and staff packages to keep the mission moving forward.  Not to mention, clearly spoken voice communications over radio during high stress situations must be clear and concise in order to promulgate mission essential orders and details.

Everything written in official capacity as an Air Force member must comply with the Plain Writing Act as directed by Department of Defense Instruction 5025.13.

It should also comply with the specifics of Air Force Instruction (AFI) 33-360, Publications and Forms Management, for any Air Force publications. So, when preparing to write or speak, and before putting pen to paper for a report or publication, remember to keep it plain and simple.


The Tongue and the Quill AFH 33-337 publication is not located on this commercial website, but an official DoD / Air Force Publications Web Site. Depending on the size of the file, and the speed of your connection, it may take several minutes to download/view.  It is highly recommended to improve your communication skills regardless of your occupation, but especially if your profession is performing government business. Use this document as a reference guide whenever you need guidance on understanding effective communications in all forms of media:  digital, oral presentations, print, even social media when updating or posting official information on a government website or social media page.

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