How To Write And Talk About War, And How Not To

By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, September 6, 2023

A new guide has just been published at that provides clear standards for how to write about war, and how not to.

It includes many terms and phrases to avoid, superior alternatives, and explanations.

It also provides general rules for how to approach the use of language for communicating about war.

While I did my bit to help write this guide, I’m nonetheless making an edit in a speech I’m drafting as I look through this guide and spot something I’ve done wrong.

So, some of it is new to me too. Some of it, though, is very old. Some of it is lessons I’ve tried in vain to impart for many years. It can be difficult to break people of speech habits, especially if they’re surrounded by others engaged in the same practices, and especially if they don’t really understand what the point of changing is.

That’s where this guide can come in. We need a collective effort to reform how we write and speak about war. We need to encourage and correct each other. Because it does matter.

It matters that mass killing not be sanitized, that crimes not be rationalized, that horrors not be hidden in euphemisms, metaphors, and obscure acronyms.

If life matters, this matters.


2 Responses

  1. So helpful David! The guide continues to help me change my language, which requires ongoing work as part of our larger struggle to end war.

  2. There are many thought provoking items on the list of terms we all use,, the language of battle in everyday life. When a patient dies of cancer, why do we say he lost the battle with cancer? I am going to read this again.

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