PsyWar of Words

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The Army’s psychological operations manual spells out – literally – how psyops soldiers are supposed to help the guys with the guns win. Toward that end, they’re supposed to draft psyop plans with “strong verbs” instead of those dreaded “weak verbs.”

For those of you who weren’t paying attention in English class, the Army includes handy lists of both:

Alas, Battleland has read lots of Pentagon reports salted with weak verbs. It also has no idea why “surrenders” is listed twice as a “strong verb” (wishful thinking?) and “loves” and “hates” are deemed weak. The Army says strong verbs are favored when drafting psyop plans, to which it adds:

Supporting Psychological Operations objectives should not be written in absolutes. An absolute is a verb that cannot be measured because it is a lack of a behavior insinuating an end state. The focus should be on what behavior a target audience can be expected to do. Terms such as “ceases,” “refrains,” “feels,” or “stops” should not be used. Just like the Psychological Operations objective, the verb should describe the direction of the desired change. The verbs “maintain” and “continue” are not really directions and imply an end state. If the behavior is important enough to address, then a direction for the behavior to move toward should be stated. Verbs that imply the direction of behavior change, such as “report,” “turn in,” “gain,” and “build” are acceptable.

Wonder if they ever have war games pitting strong verbs against weak verbs? h/t Public Intelligence