I am known for long rambling written communications. I’m old enough that I was taught to present my facts, my argument first, then once those have been accepted, I present my conclusions, based on those facts and arguments.
This was the standard method for many many years.
Unfortunately this leads to “Burying the lead” where you don’t get to the point of a written communication until you have waded through all the gunk you don’t really care about. Or you lose your audience before you get to your primary point.
In order to combat this, we started using “abstracts”. An abstract is suppose to be a condensed statement of what the communication will communicate. These can be a paragraph or they can be a page. The longer they are, the less useful they become.
Back when secretaries were a thing, it wasn’t uncommon for an executive to ask their secretary for an “executive summary”. The person so charged would read the entire thing and then present a condensed statement of the paper. Sometimes as short as a sentence.
Now consider a military situation. You are the commanding officer, a junior officer from intelligence comes running in, out of breath. They start explaining that they have this indicator, that indicator, this observation, that observation. Finally after 15 minutes of explaining all the facts they say “From this I expect the enemy to be attacking from the north east via the river valley,” pauses to look at his watch, “in about 10 minutes”.
Now consider the B.L.U.F. methodology,”Colonel, we have strong indicators that the enemy will be attacking in about 25-30 minutes from the north east via the river valley.” Before launching into how they reached that conclusion. The Col. might just interrupt them to send out an alert, maybe saving lives.
I was introduced to B.L.U.F. when I was doing work for the DoD. It is not my default methodology. In one of our Friday Feedbacks it was mentioned that it would be nice if there was something at the start that would let them know if they actually wanted to wade through my long posts.
The “cool kids” version of B.L.U.F. is “TL;DR” which means “Too Long; Didn’t Read”. I don’t like that style because it assumes that the person is to lazy to actually read something.
I’ve started writing articles for one of my clients. My articles run 1500 to 3000 words. (yeah, that long). All their other contributors submit articles that run around 500 words. They actually have guidelines that say “At least 500 words”. For me, they ask that I either let them break my article across multiple postings or that I do it for them.
I’ve never sent a single tweet. How can I even form a thought when I’m limited to 140 characters?
So you get BLUF now when I remember, which is most of the time.
4 thoughts on “B.L.U.F. — Bottom Line Up Front”
Good to know. The company I work for is acronym crazy and Im a knucke draggin neanderthal who was taught english so I tend to get irritated when bombarded with a blizzard of the dam things …dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century…
I made up a new acronym just for you BLAB!
These days I tend to use the BLUF concept, but I label the first section “Short Version,” and then the next section “Details.”
The main difference is, it makes a very clear break between the summary and supporting info. I find this is helpful if the “summary” needs to be more than one or two sentences.
All this reminds me of the comedian talking about the “project budget phone call” a guy called him thinking he was someone else. Communication is key and corporations move to email coms that NEVER get answered.. rant over.
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