Poetry Prompt: Intelligence Style


This post is part of a series of weekly found poetry prompts. If you have an idea for a found poetry source, email Senior Poetry Editor Beth Ayer.

Who are the word watchers?

Your source text this week is the CIA’s style manual,  Directorate of Intelligence Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications, which was released online and then moved over to Scribd when the demand for the document became too high. Along with the question above (which I don’t believe the document answers), the guide provides some excellent writing style guidance and a peek at the CIA’s remarkable way with words (see this piece on Open Culture for a quick overview).

Your prompt: Using the CIA style guide as source text, create a poem by erasing or otherwise remixing the manual. As always, please share in the comments or submit to an upcoming issue.


  • July 18, 2014

    Lewis Oakwood

    Who Are The Word Watchers?

    The answer
    is in the question.

    Who =
    Your culture/society.

    Your culture/society
    is your words.

    For example
    the title of the manual.

    Style Manual
    Writers Guide.

    Intelligence guides


  • July 18, 2014


  • July 18, 2014

    Susan Powers Bourne

    Intelligent Foreword

    Intelligence depends

    on clear, concise writing.

    Information gathers itself.

    Analysis produces means

    we cannot convey as a whole.

    We have always understood –

    been home to people who excel,

    enjoy — reflect care and precision.

    Standard designs are logical,

    sensible, and convenient —

    in content and organization.

    Other changes: new word usage,

    revised and accepted acronyms.

    The world is not static –

    nor the language we employ.

    Intelligence draws on insights

    deepens our knowledge –

    ensures enduring powers

    of words we can rely on –

    upon which we may rely.

    = = = =

    Susan Powers Bourne | 18 July 2014
    Directorate of Intelligence Style Manual & Writers Guide
    for Intelligence Publications, 8th ed. 2011.

  • Directorate of Intelligence Style
    Follow the old maxim, “When in doubt, don’t.”
    Numbers used in a metaphorical sense are spelled out.
    Some abbreviations are widely recognized and need no explanation.
    Do not italicize foreign words that have been naturalised into English.
    Bullets — usually solid circular symbols — are used to introduce.
    The American spelling is always used; if there is a good English translation, use it.
    Use hyphens (not en dashes) in Russian submarine classes.
    B.C. (before Christ; comes after the number, see A.D.)
    Ironically (involves incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs).
    Neocolonist(s), neofascist(s) but neo-Communist, neo-Nazi.
    The preferred adjective for our country is US, not American