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Terminology
Quick Reference Terms

Following are standard practices, preferred terms, clarification on some misunderstood terms and incorrect terminology. Please also see BoatBeat’s Glossary of Terms and recommended Style Guide.

  • Boat vs. Vessel: Use the term “boat,” instead of vessel, as encouraged by the National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) Resolution 2008-81-03. If the article uses the term “vessel,” they should use it consistently throughout. The words are interchangeable, but the term “boat” is more recognizable among the recreational boating public.
  • Life Jacket vs. PFD: Note the preferred term is “life jacket,” as identified by Boating Safety Advisory Council’s Resolution 2008-81-03, rather than “personal flotation device.” Use of the preferred term helps with consistency and educational branding when promoting life jacket use to recreational boaters. Both terms are correct but more of the public relate to the term “life jacket.”
  • Driver vs. Operator: Boat operators are not called drivers and should instead be referred to as “operators.”
  • Drunk: The correct terminology is “operating under the influence” or “boating under the influence.”
  • Edge of a boat: The correct terminology for the “edge” of a boat is “gunwale.”
  • Flyboard: “Flyboard” is a brand and, therefore, should be capitalized.
  • Personal Watercraft (PWC): To an average, this may be thought of as “their personal boat.” PWC actually include a number of smaller vessels usually operated by a single person or may have up to two passengers if it is rated to do that. PWC are usually jet propelled and include brands such as Jet Ski, Wave Runner or Sea Doo.
  • PWC vs. Jet Ski: Headline mentions a Jet Ski and the body of the story refers to a personal watercraft (PWC). Jet Ski is a trade mark name for a product of Kawasaki, PWC applies to the type of watercraft.
  • PWC vs. Small Watercraft: Rather than use various terms to refer to the same type of boat, for example, using the term “small watercraft” and then “personal watercraft,” be uniform and use “personal watercraft” throughout the article.
  • Rudder blades: The correct terminology is “propeller blades.”
  • Vehicle: Articles often refer to operators or passengers as being ejected from their vehicle, rather than “boat.” When referring to the operator of the boat, the term “motorist” should be replaced with “operator.”

Fact Sheets

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Expert Sources

U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Auxiliary & Boating Safety

National Safe Boating Council (NSBC)

National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)

Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA)

Water Sports Industry Association

Browse Federal and State Point-of-Contacts