If you’re thinking about writing a military article with a quick dash of Internet searching and a splash of thesaurus work for custom content services, don’t. Unlike general content production, military writing involves a technical knowledge akin to writing about how to build an engine; it will become very obvious very quickly that the author doesn’t know the carburetor doesn’t belong anywhere near the oxygen sensor in the exhaust pipe.
Writing about military topics requires technical research or personal military experience, and sometimes both. Due to the fact that many interested readers already have their own military experience for reference, the writing produced has to be based on hard facts and correct details. For example, if an author describes the performance of a U.S. Sherman tank in World War II, he can’t gloss over the fact that initially the iron buckets were death traps versus far superior German tanks with better armor.
Ideally, a military content writer will have personal experience being in the military, thus being able to include nuances in his writing that would otherwise escape a non-experienced writer. Where a writer does not have prior military experience, his research will have to be in-depth and factual, often based on secondary sources. A number of potential information treasures are available fortunately, allowing them to come relatively close to the realism military-experienced writers produce. These include:
- Direct military research – Every military branch of the U.S. regularly produces press articles, research, studies, reports, guides and protocol manuals on every aspect of the military. Most of these materials are available or can be found in the Internet if they don’t involve sensitive or classified information. The military branches themselves collectively offer a large library of material specific to each area and function as well.
- Veterans’ experience research – If a writer can’t personally produce content from experience, the next best place is to ask military veterans for their memories and insight. That’s exactly what Steven Spielberg did in the production of the movie, Saving Private Ryan. The depictions in the World War II movie were so realistic from details gathered, some war veterans had to leave the theater because hearing and feeling the rumble of tanks in the movie caused memory flashbacks of the real conflict fifty-something years before.
- Specific unit details – Many divisions and units have groups of veterans who specifically network their information, experience and history to maintain unit camaraderie. A number of these social networks have formed and maintain their information on specific Internet websites. The locations can provide both valuable secondary research as well as contacts for primary interviewing research.
- Declassified intelligence research – Countries around the world regularly keep an eye on each other. Over the years reports become declassified and available to the public. These materials can be obtained with some research, and they provide a critical, objective look at how a target country’s military performs, operates and measures up to outside evaluation.
Good military writing is possible with accurate and correct research behind it. While secondary research can’t replace “living the experience,” well thought-out material can be developed from a number of usable sources with a bit of work and patience.
Tom L is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.