If you are not from a military background, the Bottom Line Up Front communication style, or BLUF, might not be meaningful. But as an employee, you should take note, because this can make a huge difference in getting your point across quickly, building trust with management, and even acing a job interview.
Here’s what you need to know about the communication style and how you can use it to your best advantage.
What is BLUF?
BLUF is originally a military communications technique, in which the conclusion, or the most vital information and actions, is placed right at the very beginning of the communication. This is also known as not burying the lede. This can be seen particularly in military emails, which are lead with a short, staccato statement known as the BLUF. It declares the purpose of the email and action required.
The BLUF should quickly answer the five W’s: who, what, where, when, and why. An effective BLUF distills the most important information for the reader. Here’s an example BLUF from the Air Force Handbook:
BLUF: Effective 29 Oct 13, all Air Force Doctrine Documents (AFDDs) have been rescinded and replaced by core doctrine volumes and doctrine annexes.
The BLUF in an email helps readers quickly digest the announcement, decision, and when the new procedures go into effect. The reader doesn’t necessarily want to know all the background information that led to the decision. He or she likely wants to know “how does this email affect me?” and the BLUF should answer this question right away every time.
How Does This Help at Work?
As an employee, your co-workers and your leadership team are looking to you to get your point across quickly and effectively in all your communications. By implementing the BLUF concept into your emails and your verbal communication, you reduce the likelihood of confusing anyone, or of wasting anyone’s time – including your own. If what you are saying is not relevant to their needs, they know right away and can steer the conversation in a more productive direction. This method also gives readers or listeners what they need to make an informed decision on what they should do in response to your communication. It shows respect for the people you work with and a desire to work well together.
Using BLUF in an Interview
There is almost no other time when it is so important to get your point across quickly and effectively than in an interview. You have a limited amount of time to connect with an interviewer, and it makes all the difference. Use the BLUF concept to frame your responses to interview questions, and be clear and concise to get your point across. This way of thinking also makes you consider what the most important things to focus on are, making sure that you highlight all the relevant information you need to share in an interview situation.
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