Spying in style

As a teenager it was James Bond for me. Later it was Quiller. They created more than their fair share of mayhem and destruction as they saved the world from a variety of evil megalomaniacs – but always in great style. But I came late to James Bond. Before that I had already devoured the adventures of Simon Templar and his Saintly and stylish capers. Sherlock Holmes had arrogance but did not have much style. Ethan Hunt didn’t have it either. Nor did Jason Bourne.

Much can be excused if done with class. While style alone is not class it is certainly a necessary ingredient.

Class is not appearance and it is not personality or charisma; it is a style and elegance of behaviour and a consistency of actions. – Essence of a Manager

In any event it is reassuring to note that the CIA gives proper importance to style – though this guide is only for the style of the written word.

CIA Style Manual

This is the eighth edition of the CIA’s “Style Manual and Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications”.

I find it very well done and something that could well be put to use by many journalists.

For example:

meaningful — is a vacuous word that is too often used by analysts to mean Significant.
The results of the meeting were meaningful is meaningless

Masterful, masterly — Careful writers distinguish between these adjectives. A masterful person is overpowering, overbearing, or imperious; he or she is capable of mastering others. A virtuoso performance is masterly, the work of a master artist.


The eighth edition of the Style Manual and Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications provides guidance for English usage and writing style in the Central Intelligence Agency. It incorporates most of the improvements that appeared in previous editions but returns to the organization by chapters of the earliest versions. The chapters on capitalization, numbers, abbreviations, italics, punctuation, spelling, and compound words have numerous headings and subheadings to enable users to find specific subjects quickly within the chapters themselves or through the table of contents. Further subject indexing is provided in chapter 9-the Word Watchers List-which incorporates many of the style rules in abbreviated form; it is similar to the Word Watchers Index in the fourth edition and to the overall organization of more recent editions. The manual also includes a comprehensive Spelling and Compound Words List, as have all previous editions, and an index to the entire manual.
The counsel in this guide is derived from many sources, including the works of Barzun, Bernstein, Copperud, Follett, Fowler, the Morrises, Strunk and White, Gregg, and other recognized arbiters of English usage. It also draws on the stylebooks of press services, newspapers, publishing houses, and past and present CIA offices.
A basic reference for spelling, compounding, and other instructions for all eight editions is the US Government Printing Office’s Style Manual, the most recent edition of which was issued in 2008. The GPO’s authority for spelling imd compounding words is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, published by G. & C. Merriam Company. That dictionary or the more up-to-date abridgments of it (the latest being Webster’s 11th New Collegiate Dictionary) are the authorities for the preferred spellings listed in this guide that were not found in the GPO manual.
This guide is for both the creators and the processors of intelligence analysis-for the writers and for the editors of their analyses. It also serves writers and processors of administrative papers. Moreover, it has been used and will continue to be used by teachers and students of writing and publications processing.

It is not so easy, I suppose, to have a Style Manual for water-boarding. If only the CIA also had a Manual for classy behaviour.


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