Use this military principle in your business writing

Oct 21, 2020

We live in a busy world, and we should respect other people’s time. In business writing, we should clearly express our ideas so that our clients, colleagues, and business partners will not waste their time reading too-long-and-unstructured reports, emails, and other documents.

Do you want to improve your business writing skills? Use the BLUF (bottom line up front) principle — you will be amazed by the results.

What is the BLUF principle?

BLUF is a military communication principle. It enforces speed and clarity in emails and reports and facilitates the decision-making process.

BLUF provides answers to the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. Basically, to apply the BLUF principle in business writing means to put the most important details first to save the reader’s time.

How to use BLUF in your writing

Present key points briefly

Imagine you have only 30 words to present your key points to the reader. How will you articulate your ideas? Strive to avoid wordiness:

●      Use active voice instead of passive voice verbs.

●      Use verbs instead of nouns to express action where it’s possible.

●      Avoid unnecessary language. Don’t use phrases like because of the fact, due to the fact, in the event of, by means of.

Here is an example of a poorly written bottom line:

“Due to the fact of an unexpected server crash, our team is in need of getting your help with moving a website to a new server.”

You can simplify it this way:

“Please help us move our website to a new server. We’ve experienced an unexpected server crash.”

Is it challenging for you to edit your own writing? Consider using the top writing services — let professional editors help you get rid of wordiness and add clarity to your writing.

Focus on a reader

Human beings are essentially selfish. In most cases, we do not really care about the events and things that happen around us. We only care about the things that affect us personally.

You should understand that your clients do not want to read about the issue you have faced. The only thing they want is to get answers to these questions:

● “How does this issue/update/event affect me?” (I will have to increase my marketing budget, work extra hours, etc.)

● “What specific action should I take, if any?” (sign a new contract, hire a new copywriter, etc.)

● “Why should I do it?” (to increase sales, to complete a project on time, etc.)

● “When should I do it?” (today, this week, before December 20, etc.)

Provide background information

The reader may or may not need the background information to make a decision or complete an action. So you should present the most important information first, and then add some supporting information. If the reader needs this supporting information, she will read it; if not, she will skip it.

Bottom line:

● We need your permission to change the size of logo from 300px*100px to 200px*70px to create a cohesive design aesthetic.

Supporting information:

● The current logo is too big and it looks out of place.

● It distracts users from browsing products. Users leave a website without making a purchase. We need to fix this issue and eliminate distractions to ensure a smooth customer shopping experience.

Revise, edit, and proofread

The use of the BLUF principle is all about ensuring clarity in writing. And you should always revise, edit, and proofread all your business documents and emails. To become a more proficient writer, do the following:

● Proofread for one type of error at a time. For example, check commas first and then check the spelling of long words.

● Read the text aloud. It will help you spot your own mistakes and typos.

● Install a grammar checker such as Grammarly to proofread your reports and emails automatically.

● If you need to edit important documents (annual reports, presentations, etc.), use Trustmypaper or similar reliable proofreading services.

Make your tone clear

Before you write the bottom line of your email or report, ask yourself a question: What am I trying to convey? A request or a sense of urgency, penance, or maybe excitement?

Choose the right words to articulate your thoughts. Make sure that brevity will not affect the clarity of your message.

In conclusion

The use of the BLUF principle can take your business writing skills to a new level. If you leverage it wisely, you will enhance communication with your clients and boost your freelance career.

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send us your blog post.