Don’t start writing anything until you learn to BLUF

Let me set the scene. You’re writing a highly important document and it’s worthy of a read; it’s chock full of valuable information your colleagues/customers/employees need to know.

But it doesn’t land. Nobody reads it. Or worse, they have to struggle through it, and it becomes a chore. Your highly important document goes down in history as being as engaging as an obscure tax policy document from 1985 you’ve had to blow the dust off just to get at. You get the picture.

The very first question you have to ask yourself is, who is this for? Is it for readers that have a good grasp on the information already? Or is it for an audience learning about the subject from scratch?

The next question is, what do you want them to take away from it? Do they need to take action? Change their behaviour? Just be aware? Is it talking points about a product, or changes to a service offering? Understand the intent of your piece of writing before you start drafting.

Front cover of a book with a Benjamin Franklin quote written

Knowing who you’re writing for is critical in a world where the global attention span is narrowing at a rapid rate.

Let’s say you’re an internal communication specialist writing to your colleagues about the introduction of a new policy at work. You need them to know exactly what this new policy is, when it’ll be implemented and how it might affect them.

From experience, everyone and no one is a HR buff, so stay away from jargon and language your audience may not understand. The last thing you want is a panic-inducing email that brings a horde of worried and unsure workers to your door.

Your plan of attack should always be bottom line up front (BLUF).

Don’t bury the detail in the fourth or fifth paragraph or expect your audience to read an entire document. Keep the information clear and concise and up top—you’ve got a better chance of the important info being read first before they skim the rest of your communication piece.

By elevating the important messages, you do yourself and the reader a service. Tell them upfront and leave no ambiguity.

Time is precious, don’t waste it on word count.

Adrienne from RD Consulting working on a laptop


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