USGS - science for a changing world

U.S. Geological Survey Manual

USGS Correspondence Handbook

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Chapter 5.

"Quick And Easy" Answers to Everyday Questions

"A" or "An"

In choosing "a" or "an," consider the sound (not the spelling) of the following word. Use the article "a" before all consonant sounds, including sounded "h", long "u," and "o" with the sound of "w" (as in "one").

Example: a day 1-week delay a COD package a hotel a U.S. Senator a European trip

Use "an" before all vowel sounds, except long "u," and before words beginning with a silent "h."

Example: an asset an heir an 8-hour day an honor an eyesore an orange

Some consonants begin with a vowel sound (e.g., F, H, L, M, N, R, S, and X).

If the sound is a "vowel" sound, then use "an."

Example: an SAT score an MIT professor an FCC report

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Abbreviations and Acronyms

Always spell out an abbreviation/acronym the first time it is used, and put the abbreviation/acronym in parentheses. Since it could make the subject line too long, it is not necessary to spell out the abbreviation/acronym in the subject line. The general rule is that the abbreviation/acronym be spelled out the first time it is used in the text. However, if the only time an abbreviation/acronym is used is in the subject line, then it must be spelled out.

Example: This memorandum provides an update on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) construction plans for the National Center in Reston. The USGS has transferred about $8.3 million for this project.
   This responds to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of April 12, 2xxx. The fourth exemption under the FOIA protects from mandatory disclosure of confidential information.

If an abbreviation/acronym is never used again within the document, then it does not have to be shown.

Example: NOT:  The Federal Personnel Payroll System (FPPS) is now used by all finance offices departmentwide.
   BUT:  The Federal Personnel Payroll System is now used by all finance offices departmentwide.

Exception: Do not use parentheses to enclose "DOI" or the acronym for a bureau or office in the text of correspondence prepared for Secretary Babbitt´s signature. After the Department of the Interior or the U.S. Geological Survey has been referred to in a letter, we can assume any later reference to DOI or the USGS will be understood as reference to the Department or the Survey. References to other commonly known acronyms such as EPA, HUD, or DOD should also be used according to these guidelines. Also, we should make every effort to eliminate the use of acronyms that are not commonly used outside the Department, such as GOM for Gulf of Mexico.

When using "COB" meaning "close of business," it should be typed in all caps. No comma is placed after "COB."

Example: Please submit your comments to me no later than COB Thursday, August 19, 2xxx.

When referring to a "fax machine" or if you are asking someone to send you a "fax," you should spell out the word "fax" in lower case. The word "fax" can be found in the dictionary--it is short for facsimile. It is not an acronym, therefore, do not capitalize the letters "FAX." The word "telefax" can also be used.

Example: Please submit your response to me as soon as possible. My fax number is (703) 648-7999.
Example: Attached for your information is a telefax from the company regarding the contract.

When referring to States in the address line, or within the body of the text, always spell out the State name. When using the city and State within the body of the text, remember to put a comma after both the city and the State. Always put periods after the "D" and "C" when referring to "Washington, D.C." No spaces are used between U.S., S.W., N.W., etc. The abbreviation for the States should only be used when addressing envelopes, i.e., VA, MD, DC.

Example: Please submit your response to me at 201 National Center, Reston, Virginia 20192.
Example: Please submit your response to John R. Doe, Mail Stop 201,
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192.
  Note:  When typing an address in the body of the correspondence, the "State" is spelled out - no abbreviation. Also, when typing zip codes within the text, only put one space after the last letter of the State. In the address heading, spell out the State, and put two spaces after the last letter of the State. Instead of typing "Mail Stop 201, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive," you can substitute the mail stop number followed by the words "National Center." Either way is correct. However, when using the full address, be sure to put the mail stop first, followed by the address (so that when the envelope is prepared it will appear in the correct mailing order format - name, mail stop, street address, city, state, and zip code). Always spell out the words "Mail Stop - the "M" and "S" should be capitalized. Do not use the abbreviation "MS."
  Example:   Name
    U.S. Geological Survey
    Mail Stop 100
    City, State Zip Code
    U.S. Geological Survey
    100 National Center
    City, State Zip Code

The abbreviation for electronic mail is e-mail. Do not capitalize the "e."

Web site is typed as one word and the "w" is capitalized.

Database is preferred as one word.

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Commonly Misused Nouns and Verbs

"Accept" - to take or receive/"Except" - (v.) to exclude

Example: Every Committee member signed the contract except Mary Jones.
   Scientists will accept the new theory

"Affect" or "Effect"

"Affect" is normally used as a verb meaning "to influence, change, or assume."

Example: The court´s decision in this case will not affect (change) the established precedent.
  She affects (assumes) an unsophisticated manner.

"Effect" can be either a verb meaning "to bring about or accomplish" or a noun meaning "result or impression."

Example: It is essential that we effect (bring about) an immediate improvement in sales.
  It will be months before we can assess the full effect (result) of the new law.


"Assure" means "to give someone confidence or to inform positively" - the object of this verb should always refer to a person.

Example: I want to assure you (give you confidence) that nothing will go wrong.

"Ensure" means "to make certain."

Example: I want to ensure (make certain) that nothing can go wrong tomorrow.

"Insure" means "to protect against loss."

Example: I want to insure this necklace (protect it against loss) for $5000.


"Bring" - to carry or lead (a person or thing) to the place thought of as here.

Example: Please bring the research data with you when you next come to the office.

"Take" - to get possession by force or skill (seize, grasp, catch, capture, win).

Example: Please take the enclosed letter to Farley when you go to see him.
  You may take my copy with you if you will bring it back by Friday.


"Than" - compared to. "Then" is an adverb meaning "at that time" or "next."

Example: The compulsory retirement age is higher now than it was then.
  Note:   Remember that then (like when) refers to time.


"That and Which" are used when referring to places, objects, and animals. "Which" is always used to introduce nonessential clauses, and "that" is ordinarily used to introduce essential clauses.

Example: Laura´s report on employee benefits, which I sent you last week, should be of some help.
(Which introduces a nonessential clause.)
  The report that I sent you last week should be of some help. (That introduces an essential clause.)

"Who and that" are used when referring to persons. Select "who" when the individual person or the individuality of a group is meant and "that" when a class, species, or type is meant.

Example: She is the only one of my managers who can speak Japanese fluently.
  He is the kind of student that should take advanced math.


"Their" - belonging to them. "There" - at that place.

Example: If your car won´t start, take theirs.
  Please sit over there until your name is called.


"Who (or whoever)" is the nominative form. Use "who" whenever he, she, they, I, or we could be substituted in the who clause. (If in doubt, mentally rearrange the clause as is done in the examples below.)

Example: Who is arranging the teleconference? (She is arranging the teleconference.)
  Who shall I say is calling? (I shall say he is calling.)

"Whom (or whomever)" is the objective form. Use "whom" whenever him, her, them, me, or us could be substituted as the object of the verb or as the object of a preposition in the whom clause.

Example: Whom did you see today? (You did see her today.)
  To whom were you talking? (You were talking to him.)

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The apostrophe is most commonly used to show possession.

To form the singular possessive of an abbreviation, add an apostrophe plus "s." To form the plus possessive, add an "s" plus an apostrophe to the singular form.

Example: Singular Plural
  The USGS´s antique car The CPAs´ meeting

Do not use the apostrophe "s" when the acronym is displayed in parenthesis for the first time.

Example: The U.S. Geological Survey´s (USGS) antique car is red. The USGS displays this car in front of the building.

Do not begin a sentence with an acronym.

If the singular form of a noun does not end in "s" or an "s" sound, add the apostrophe and "s."

Example: Secretary´s, John´s, girl´s.

If the singular ends in "s" or an "s" sound, add the apostrophe and "s."

Example: Harris´s, Jones´s, Davis´s.

If the plural form of the noun does not end in "s," add the apostrophe and "s."

Example: Men´s, children´s, women´s.

If the plural form of the noun ends in "s," add the apostrophe, don´t add another "s."

Example: Boys´, ladies´, wives´.
  Note: If you remember that this symbol of possession is always added to a word, never inserted within the word, you will soon master the use of the apostrophe.

Possessive personal pronouns never take an apostrophe. Adding an apostrophe would be adding a possessive sign to a word that is already possessive.

Example: Whose, not who´s; theirs, not their´s; its, not it´s.

The apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of one or more letters in contractions.

Example: Don´t; o´clock; wouldn´t.

The apostrophe may be used before an "s" to form the plurals of figures and letters of the alphabet.

Example: Three "2´s;" five "b´s."

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Capitalization and Compound Words

Do not use contractions in correspondence (don´t, I´ve, it´s).

Capitalize the word "State" when it follows the name of a State, or is part of an imaginative name.

Example: New York State is also called the Empire State.
  The State of Alaska is the largest in the Union.
  After an overseas assignment, he returned to the States (referring to the United States).

Capitalize the word Nation if used as a synonym for the United States, but a nation; nationwide (in general); also French nation, Balkan nations.

When words like "northern," "southern," "eastern," or "western" precede a place name, they are not capitalized because they merely indicate direction or position. However, when these words are actually part of the place name, they must be capitalized.

Example: northern New Jersey Northern Ireland
  Western States Western Australia
  western Massachusetts Eastern United States

When referring to the "Washington, D.C., metropolitan area," the "m" and "a" are not capitalized.

When referring to the "northern Virginia area," the "V" is the only letter that is capitalized. However, when referencing "Northern Virginia," both the "N" and "V" are capitalized.

Capitalize the letters when referring to a specific bureau, division, or office.

Example: The meeting will focus on how the Office of Communications plans to fund the project.
  The U.S. Geological Survey will be spending about $1.2 million in order to implement the program.

Do not capitalize the word "bureau," "division," "headquarters," or "office," if it is not part of the official name.

Example: The bureau is composed of five disciplines.
  To obtain additional copies, please call your servicing personnel office.

Agency is capitalized if it is part of the name or standing alone if referring to a particular Federal unit.

Example: Chippewa (Indian); the agency
  Central Intelligence Agency; the Agency
  Environmental Protection Agency; the Agency
  Federal agencies

When referring to the Department of the Interior, capitalize "Department" (because it is part of the official name).

Example: Most of the requests were sent to the Department from other agencies.

Do not capitalize the words "departmental" or "departmentwide."

Example: In fiscal year (FY) 2001, the USGS will continue to support both bureau-specific and departmentwide activities for system modifications and improvements.

Capitalize the words Internet, Intranet and Web site.

Celestial Bodies

Capitalize the names of the celestial bodies Sun and Moon, as well as the planets Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Lowercase the word moon in such expressions as "the moons of Jupiter."

All "wide" words are typed as one word--do not hyphenate them.

Example: The registration forms have been distributed bureauwide and should be sent back before May 15, 2001.
Example: Beginning October 1, 2xxx, the FPPS will be implemented governmentwide.

Governmentwide (U.S. - uppercase G)

governmentwide (State or city - lowercase g)

When referring to different forms of government, capitalize "Federal," and "State."

Example: The memorandum was sent to all Federal, State, local, and municipal agencies.

Always use capital letters when referring to the "Federal Government." Many times you will see the word "federal" in newspaper print. However, when preparing Government correspondence, it is preferable to capitalize all uses of the word "Federal."

Do not capitalize the names of the seasons, unless they are personified.

Example: Old Man Winter laughed in our face as the snows began.
Example: We hold our conferences during the fall and winter each year.

Capitalize the first letter of each word in a title or heading, except for the following articles, conjunctions, or prepositions: "the," "a," "an," "and," "as," "but," "if," "or," "nor," "at," "by," "for," "in," "of," "off," "on," "out," "to," or "up."

Example: How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Capitalize the words when they are used:

1.   As the first or last word used in a title or heading;
Example: A Home to be Proud Of
2.  As adverbs rather than as preposition;
Example: IBM Chalks Up Record Earnings for the Year
3.  As the first or last word used in a title or heading;
Example: Together with prepositions having four or more letters; or
4.  As the first word following a dash or colon in a title.
Example: Abraham Lincoln-The Early Years

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Chairman, Chairwoman, or Chairperson

Although chairwoman is acceptable and chairperson (or chair) is common in business and industry, chairman is still widely used as a title for a presiding officer of either sex. Know your reading audience, however, because many people have become sensitive to any word that may imply sexual bias.

Example: Mary Roberts preceded John Stevens as chairman of the organizing committee.

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Colons, Semicolons, and Dashes

When a coordinating conjunction like "or," "and," "but," or "nor" is omitted between two independent clauses, use a semicolon to separate the clauses.

Example: The management staff favored the sale; the employees did not.

When independent clauses are linked by transitional expressions like "however," "therefore," "moreover," "accordingly," "furthermore," "nevertheless," "thus," "yet," "that is," "on the contrary," "otherwise," "hence," etc., use a semicolon between the clauses.

Example: They have given us an oral okay to proceed; however, we are still waiting for written confirmation.

Place a comma before and a colon after such expressions as "for example," "namely," "such as," and "that is," when they introduce words, phrases, or a series of clauses.

Example: The company provides a number of benefits not commonly offered in this area, for example: free dental insurance; low-cost term insurance; and personal financial counseling services.

Use a colon to introduce formally any matter that forms a complete sentence, question, or quotation.

Example: The following question came up for discussion: What policy should be adopted?

When a sentence lists numbered items, be sure to put numbers in parentheses, and use semicolons to separate them.

Example: There are three factors to consider: (1) document preparation; (2) budget requirements; and (3) manpower.

Use a semicolon to separate items in a series if any of the items already contain commas.

Example: The company will be represented on the council next year by: Martha Jones, Director of Personnel; Harris Mendel, Vice President of Marketing; and Daniel Smith, Director of Systems Development.

Use dashes in place of commas to set off a nonessential element that requires special emphasis.

Example: At this year´s annual banquet, the speakers--and the food--were superb.
Note: A dash is typed as two hyphens "--" with no spaces before, between, or after the hyphens.

Use dashes rather than a comma before the coordinating conjunction to give it special emphasis.

Example: The information that I sent you is true--and you know it!

Type dashes at the end of a line, rather than at the start of a new line.

Example: NOT:  Next year our conference is in Hawaii
--on Maui, I believe.

BUT:  Next year our conference is in Hawaii--
on Maui, I believe.

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When expressing dates, a comma is always placed between the day and year, and following the year.

Example: Beginning May 3, 2001, all requests for supplies will be sent to the appropriate administrative officer for approval.

Place a comma before and after the name of a company that has "Inc." as part of its name, "Jr.," "Sr.," or "Ph.D." as shown below:

Example: All copies of the report submitted by Hurst Associates, Inc., were sent to the Office of Procurement and Contracts.
Example: If you need additional information, please call William G. Richardson, Jr., on (703) 648-xxxx.

When referring to cities and States, place a comma after the city and after the State.

Example: The training will take place at the National Center in Reston, Virginia, in Room 1D209.

Use commas within a series of three or more words, phrases, letters, or figures used with "or," "and," or "nor."

Example: The USGS received full funding for design, construction, and related expenses.

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"In Behalf Of" or "On Behalf Of"

"In behalf of" and "on behalf of" have distinct senses and should not be used interchangeably. "In behalf of" means "in the interest of" or "for the benefit of." "On behalf of" means "as the agent of" or "on the part of."

Example: We raised money in behalf of the orphans. We acted in their behalf.
Example: The guardian sued on behalf of the minor child. On whose behalf did he act?

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Spell out numbers one through nine.

Example: He needed two copies of the report.

A figure is used for a single number of 10 or more, with the exception of the first word of a sentence, in which case the number should be spelled out.

Example: At the convention we got over 75 requests for a copy of the report.
  Twenty employees signed up for the graphics art course.

If the number requires more than two words when spelled out at the beginning of a sentence, reword the sentence.

Example: NOT:   Five hundred fifty-five dollars was credited to the facilities account.
  BUT:   The facilities account was credited in the amount of $555.

When 2 or more numbers appear in a sentence and 1 of them is 10 or more, figures are used for each number.

Example: We now have 5 dogs, 11 cats, and 1 rabbit.

Spell out "first through ninth."

Example: The lighting project will begin on the second floor next Monday.

Figures are used beginning with "10th."

Example: The elevator stopped at the 10th floor.

When numbers appear in a series and are lower than 10, spell out the numbers.

Example: She represented the first, third, and fourth regions.

When numbers appear in a series and one is 10 or more, figures are used.

Example: He traveled to the 1st, 4th, and 13th regions.

Units of measurement and time, actual or implied, are expressed in figures.

Example: 3 yards   3 days   3 days
  Ninth century (below 10) is spelled out
  20th century (10 and above) expressed in figures

Numbers in the millions or higher may be expressed as follows:

Example: 21 million    3 billion    $2.4 million

Express dates in month, day, and year sequence.

Example: On March 5, 2001, he signed the memorandum about weekend security procedures.

The first time you use a date always include the year. After that you can refer to only the month and day, if it is in the same year.

Example: The conference will be held May 17-21, 2001, in Phoenix, Arizona. The training form should be sent to your appropriate bureau representative no later than May 1.

The following are examples of date forms not to be used in correspondence.

Example: 3/15/00 or 03/15/00 March 15th, 2001
  3-15-00 the 15th of March, 2001
  Mar. 15th, 2001 the fifteenth of March, 2001
  05 March 2001 (military)  

When expressing numbers in words, hyphenate all compound numbers between 21 and 99, whether they stand alone or are part of a number over 100.

Example: twenty-one twenty-one hundred
  twenty-first seven hundred twenty-five

Do not hyphenate other words in a spelled-out number over 100.

Example: one hundred three hundred thousand
  four million six hundred million
But: thirty-two billion fifty-eight trillion

When referencing more than one (either numbers, letters, or a combination of numbers and letters), always put an "s" after the last number or letter.

Example: The SF-171´s were sent to the appropriate personnel office.
Example: All office RLO´s were notified that extra copies of the handbook were available.

When referring to FTE, always use a number.

Example: The office was given 3 FTE to accomplish the project.
Note: The "´s" is not added to the word FTE even though there is more than 1 FTE.

Express percentages in figures, and always spell out the word "percent."

Example: My client has been expecting at least a 25 percent discount from you.
Example: The object class for travel is only 3 percent of the office´s total budget.
Note: The % symbol may be used in tables, charts, or other statistical matter.

Use numbers when expressing money.

Example: He sent the USGS a check in the amount of $25 to cover the cost of the book and mailing fees.

Do not use ".00´s" when the amount has no cents. However, when combining dollar amounts in the same sentence, the ".00´s" should be shown if any of the amounts have cents.

Example: Please remit checks in the amount of $32.00 and $25.50.

For amounts under a dollar, use figures and the word "cents."

Example: The postage and handling fee will not exceed 50 cents.

Only use the dollar sign and the decimal point "$." when related amounts require a dollar sign.

Example: It will cost $4.84 a copy for the company manual; $.86 for the paper, $1.54 for the printing, and $2.44 for the special binder.
Note: When typing "$.", there is no space between the dollar sign and the decimal point.

Use numbers when expressing time. Do not use ":00" in stating clock time if the time has no minutes. However, when combining times in the same sentence, the ":00´s" should be shown if any of the times have minutes.

Example: The Committee meeting is scheduled for every Tuesday at 2 p.m.
Example: The USGS Awards Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. and will run until 11:30 a.m.

"Noon" and "midnight" are expressed in words alone. However, use the forms "12 noon" and "12 midnight" when these times are given with other times expressed in figures.

Example: Beginning at noon on May 14, 2001, the cafeteria will be closed.
Example: The training course will begin at 12 noon and will end at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Always refer to fiscal years as shown below:

Example: The fiscal year (FY) 2001 National Mapping budget submission will be due on June 1, 2001. The bureau´s FY 2001 budget submission will be due on August 13, 2001.

When referring to fiscal years, always include the full year.

Example: "FY 2001"--not "FY 01"

The only exception is when you use it in a chart or table.

Example: FY 00   FY 01   FY 02   FY 03

Always capitalize the letter "R" when stating "Room" followed by the room number. The "r" is not capitalized when used with the word "number."

Example: Please pick up the registration material in Room 3A323. The training will take place in room number 1D209.

Room numbers are to be typed as in the example, "1D209" or "3A323" - with no spaces or hyphens.

In-house telephone numbers are typed by spelling out the word "extension" before the number. Do not abbreviate extension by using "ext.", "EXT.," "x," or "X."

Example: If you have any questions or need additional information, please call me on extension xxxx.

When typing a telephone number, put the area code in parentheses.

Example: If you need any additional information, please call John L. Doe on (703) 648-xxxx.

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Omissions or Ellipsis Marks

If one or more words are omitted within a quoted sentence, use ellipsis marks to indicate the omission. Ellipsis marks are typed as three spaced periods, with one space before and after each period.

Example: "The objectives of the proposed funding bill are admirable . . . and are being used to gain support for the bill."
Note: Omit any marks of internal punctuation on either side of the ellipsis marks unless they are required for the sake of clarity.

If one or more words are omitted at the end of a quoted sentence, use three spaced periods followed by the necessary terminal punctuation for the sentence.

Example: "During the past 20 years, starting in the late 1950´s, we have been witnessing a change in buying habits . . . ."
Note: A fourth period is inserted as the "final" period ending the sentence, followed by the quotation mark.

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"Other" Documents

The main heading should be centered, in all caps, bolded, and underlined. Triple space between your main heading and the first line of the text.


If your document has subheadings, they should be typed at the left hand margin in lower case, bolded, and underlined. Double space between the subheading and the first line of the text.

Example: Facilities Projects

If the first line of text is typed at the left hand margin and there are additional bullets, the first bullet should be placed at the left hand margin.

• Begin typing all other subdivisions from here.

•  All bullets should be typed using the same designations. If you begin using the
"•," continue using it throughout the document. Do not mix bullets with hyphens "-."

"Widows" and "Orphans"

Always type "U.S." Please note that there are no spaces between the "U." and the "S." Never separate "U.S." and leave it at the end of a line.

Example: This memorandum provides an update on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) plans to construct a facility on the National Center grounds.

Never type the month and then separate it from the day; however, the day and year can be separated.

Example: The next steps for implementing the project will be on June 7, 2001.

When only using the month and year, it is permissible to separate them.

Example: The period of time has been extended from September 2001 through December 2001.

When referring to fiscal years, never separate "FY" and the year.

Example: The briefing papers will cover the period of FY 2001 through FY 2003.

Never separate times from either a.m. or p.m.

Example: The meeting will take place in the National Center auditorium at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 2, 2001.

Never separate titles such as "Mr.," "Mrs.," "Dr.," etc., from either the first or last name. Never separate the first name and middle initial; however, names of persons may be broken between the given name (including middle initial if given) and surname.

Example: Thank you for your note expressing your appreciation for Mr. Jones.
Example: The honor will be in recognition of Mr. David Smith´s work in hydrology.
Example: While working in the Central Region, Mr. Donald A. Jones was nominated for the bureau energy management award.

Do not separate the names of cities if the city has two words making up its name (e.g., St. Paul, Des Moines, San Francisco, etc.).

Example: Many districts were represented at the conference held in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the week of April 19, 2001.

When using the term "and/or"--do not separate. This term should always be shown together on the same line.

When typing letters or memorandums that exceed one page, remember to have at least two lines of text of a new paragraph shown on the bottom of the first page. If this cannot be done, put the entire paragraph on page two and adjust page one accordingly. The same rule applies to all succeeding pages.

Never have only one line of text on a page with just the signature block. In this case, either move some text from page one to page two, or try to shorten the memorandum or letter.

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Preparation of Correspondence

Always proofread your documents!

Check your finished document to make sure that you do not have any "widows" or "orphans" at your right margin.

If you refer to a day in the week along with the corresponding date, be sure that you have checked your calendar and have the day and date correct. If correspondence goes out with this error undetected, it causes confusion.

All correspondence packages that are for approval/signature/surname by the Deputy Director/Director, must have a Correspondence Brief attached to the left-hand side of the package. Originating office requirements may be different for correspondence signed below the Deputy Director/Director level.

When typing signature lines, start slightly to the right of the center of your page (about 5 spaces from center).

Make sure right, left and bottom margins are set at one inch. In some cases exceptions can be made, i.e.: if the letter or memorandum is very short, margins can be widened to 1-1½ inch; if the letter is long, the bottom margin can be adjusted slightly.

When preparing letters for signature, the name will appear on the fifth line and the title on the sixth line.

Example: Sincerely,
  (4 blank lines)

Jane A. Doe
Chief, Property Management Branch

When preparing letters for signature, if the title of the signature line will not fit on one line, indent the second line two spaces.

Example: Sincerely,
  (4 blank lines)

Robert A. Jones
Chief, Office of Facilities
   and Management Services

For memorandums prepared for signature by the Deputy Director/Director, the individual´s name is typed along with his/her title in the "From" block on memorandums. The Deputy Director/Director will sign next to his/her name in the "From" block. If someone else ultimately signs for that person, the person signing signs his/her own name and writes "for" before the name and title of the individual whose name and title are typed in the "From" block.

Example: From:
Charles G. Groat
/s/Kathyrn Clement

When an address line requires more than one line, it should be indented two spaces.

Example: Mr. Donald G. Smith, Jr.
Environmental and Geographic
  Information Systems Consulting
146 Finale Terrace
Silver Spring, Maryland 20901-5058

An "Attachment" to a memorandum or an "Enclosure" to a letter should be identified by typing Attachment or Enclosure at the top right-hand corner of the Attachment or Enclosure. If there is more than one, this should be stated as "Attachment 1," "Attachment 2," "Enclosure 1," or "Enclosure 2," etc. When there is more than one attachment or enclosure and they are identified in the text, indicate the number of attachments or enclosures as "3 Attachments," or "3 Enclosures," etc. If any of the attachments or enclosures are not identified in the text, describe each below the word "Attachment(s)" or "Enclosure(s)" - do not indicate the number before "Enclosure" or "Attachment" - just list them.

Example: Attachment 1 is a copy of the May 15, 2001, memorandum from the Deputy Director outlining the new travel policies from the Department. Attachment 2 provides copies of the outstanding travel balances for your office.

If there is only one Attachment or Enclosure, do not identify them with numbers. Simply reference them as "attached" or "enclosed."

Example: Attached is a copy of the June 1, 2001, memorandum from the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget regarding travel restrictions.
Example: Enclosed is an invoice from Canon, Inc., for the delivery of supplies to the U.S. Geological Survey.

When preparing a memorandum going to the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science for approval or concurrence, the following should be typed at the left margin, on the fifth line below the last line of the memorandum (either below the signature or "Attachment" lines). Use either the Approve/Disapprove or the Concur/Nonconcur example--whichever one is appropriate.

Example: Approve:  _________________ Dispprove:  ________________
   Date:  ____________________ Date:  ____________________
Example: Concur:  __________________ Nonconcur:  _______________
   Date:  ____________________ Date:  ____________________

Always type "In Reply Refer To:" on every memorandum and letter. The exceptions are: (1) if the memorandum is going "Through" an Assistant Secretary; (2) the correspondence is to be signed/approved in the DOI; (3) if the memorandum expresses any type of appreciation; or a letter of sympathy; (4) award letters, Length of Service Awards, retirement letters, etc.

The "In Reply Refer To:" line should start two lines underneath the DOI seal.

Example: In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop xxx

If the memorandum/letter is a "ticketed" response for signature in the Directorate, put the ACCN number on the third line following the mail stop. Use the number symbol "#" before typing the ACCN number.

Example:     (2 blank lines below seal)
  In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop xxx
  (type on 3rd line)
      (2 blank lines)
  MEMORANDUM   (type on 3rd line)
      (4 blank lines)
Administrative Officers

Chief, Supply Operations Section

Federal Express Overnight Letters
  (type on 5th line)
      (1 blank line)
  Body of memorandum   (begin typing on 2nd line)

Put at least two blank lines between the last line of the "In Reply Refer To:" information and "Memorandum" to space the memorandum properly on the page. You may want to wait until you finish the document to do this. The general rule is to put two blank lines in between the "In Reply Refer To:" information and "Memorandum." However, depending upon the length of the memorandum, the text should be appropriately placed on a page. For example, a short memorandum should not be pushed to the top of the page, leaving most of the paper blank at the bottom. In this case, put more lines in between the "In Reply Refer To:" information and "Memorandum." Use your best judgment.

When preparing a memorandum that is going "Through" Water and Science, it should be typed as follows:

Example: Through: (Name)
Assistant Secretary - Water and Science

When typing a memorandum or letter that includes subparagraphs, indent five spaces from the left and right margin. All subparagraphs should be done like this, giving them a "block" appearance. The numbers will be set apart on the page making it easier to read. The corresponding text should not "wrap" underneath the numbers.

Example: To meet the immediate reporting requirement of the Department, we need the following from each office by April 1, 2001:
  1. Total number of AFV´s projected to be purchased/leased by the office in FY 2001 through FY 2002.
  2. Narrative justification for each vehicle requested.

Please note that the margins are indented five spaces from the left and five spaces from the right. Remember to put two spaces after the numbers.

If you are typing paragraphs that do not contain numbers, it should be typed as follows:

Example: The requested information is enclosed except as follows:
  • The cost and financial data of the contractor´s internal operation and business practices; and
  • The names of key contractor personnel
Please give me a call if you need any further information regarding the contract. I can be reached at (703) 648-xxxx.

Please note that both the left and right margins of the "bulleted" items are indented five spaces. Bullets "•" can be used in place of numbers. The other paragraphs would begin again at the left margin.

Never type the date on a memorandum or letter. After the correspondence has been signed, use the date stamp.

When typing a memorandum or letter that contains lists of information, followed by additional information on the same line, do not use periods. However, use periods when statements are complete sentences.

Example: The following is a list of construction item costs that may be used as rough estimates when submitting a request for work orders:
Furnish and install electrical outlet $500
Furnish and install door and frame $800

When preparing memorandums that will be distributed to "All Employees," use the following as a guide:

  • If the memorandum is going to all Federal USGS employees nationwide, use the address "To: USGS Employees"

  • If the memorandum is going to all USGS employees nationwide (including Contractors), use the address "To: USGS All"

  • If the memorandum is to be distributed to employees at headquarters (Reston, VA) and Washington, D.C., use the address "To: GS-VARES All"

Please note the difference in these addresses. The way the memorandum is addressed is going to determine the distribution pattern. Be sure to use the correct address.

When preparing correspondence that exceeds one page, remember to put the addressee line, along with the page number, on the succeeding pages. Page numbers are always placed in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Example: Associate Directors 2
  Please review the attached document and provide any comments to me no later than July 5, 2001. If you have any questions, please give me a call.

The addressee name is listed on line one of the second page, with the page number in the upper right-hand corner.

When the correspondence is addressed to multiple addressees, do not list the multiple addressees on the succeeding pages. However, still put the page number in the upper right-hand corner.

Example:   2
  Please submit your responses to the Budget Officer, 105 National Center, Reston, Virginia 20192.

The signature line will be on the fifth line. The word "Attachment," is typed two lines below the signature line.

When preparing a memorandum for signature by the Deputy Director/Director that is addressed to recipients within the USGS, type the name and title on the "From" line. Omit the U.S. Geological Survey after the title.

Example:     MEMORANDUM      
  To: All USGS Employees        
  From: (Name)

When preparing a memorandum for the Deputy Director/Director signature that is addressed to recipients outside the USGS, but still within the DOI, the "From" line should include "U.S. Geological Survey."

Example:     MEMORANDUM      
  To: Director, Office of Financial Management        
  Through: (Name)
Assistant Secretary - Water and Science
  From: (Name)
Director, U.S. Geological Survey

Signature lines in agreements and memorandums of understanding will be shown as follows:

Example: (foreign) U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Department of the Interior
  of the United States of America
  (domestic) U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Department of the Interior

Back to Table of Contents - Chapter 5


The following are subdivisions to be used when typing outlines:

I. Begin typing here.

A. Begin typing here.

1. Begin typing here.

a. Begin typing here.

(1) Begin typing here.

(a) Begin typing here.

1) Begin typing here

a) Begin typing here.
Note: Two spaces are typed after each one. The last two breakdowns are typed with only one parenthesis.

The following are the subdivisions to be used when typing correspondence other than outlines:

1. Begin typing here.

a. Begin typing here.

(1) Begin typing here.

(a) Begin typing here.

1) Begin typing here.

(a) Begin typing here.

1) Begin typing here

a) Begin typing here.
Note: Two spaces are typed after each one. The last two breakdowns are typed with only one parenthesis.

Back to Table of Contents - Chapter 5

Titles and Initials

"Ms." is a convenient form of addressing a woman regardless of her marital status, and it is now almost universally accepted. "Miss" is used to refer to an unmarried woman, and "Mrs." is used to refer to a married woman. Some women indicate a preference for "Miss" or "Mrs.," and such a preference should be honored. An academic or professional title ("Dr.," "Prof.," "Capt.," etc.) should take preference over "Ms.," "Miss," or "Mrs."

When referring to this facility, please use the official name of "John Wesley Powell Federal Building," or "J. W. Powell Federal Building."

Note: Initials in a person´s name should each be followed by a period and one space.

Back to Table of Contents - Chapter 5

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