Communications: Putting The Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)


by Mark A. Parrish

BLUF-ing someone refers to the discipline of providing a single sentence, summarizing the call to action for a recipient, and ideally negating the need to read any further.


Routinely, business communiqués begin with a back story, meandering along at times in serpentine fashion, until a point is finally made.  The writer makes an effort to teach, and hence rationally compel, the reader to come to their conclusion for the call to action.  But imagine you have six seconds or less of the reader’s attention.  How might the structure of your message change?

While back stories offer invaluable insights into context and the sender’s intentions, with six seconds or less one must “BLUF” the audience (yes, this is a “good” thing).  The concept of a single-sentence summary early ensures that one gets to the point immediately.  If the reader questions the decision or the context, then the ensuing detail affords the opportunity to read on, building further commitment to the call to action.  However, if the reader is in agreement with the BLUF, then the need to read on is alleviated and the detail superfluous.

In the military, this is referred to in an operations order as the “Commander’s Intent.”  If one reads nothing else in that order other than the Commander’s Intent, the mission can still succeed by proceeding on purpose.

Using this tutorial as an example, note this method of communicating, whether oral or in writing, requires no summary statement at the end.

Finally, a practical hint as one adopts the practice:  type your communiqué in what you’d consider typical fashion, bottom line at the end, then cut and paste it into an introductory sentence with the “BLUF” caption.  So go ahead and BLUF them!

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