Improve Any Team's Online Communication with These 3 Military Email Protocols The BLUF protocol alone will get to the point immediately.

By Nick Wolny

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Chainarong Prasertthai | Getty Images

For many business owners, great online communication is more critical than ever. From seasoned brick-and-mortar founders to starry-eyed startups, nearly every sector of business is facing demand to quickly pivot their product, messaging or both.

Moreover, an all-online team may become the new norm. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently told some of his employees that working from home will become permanent, according to a leaked email first reported by BuzzFeed News, and Google told employees last week to just stay home for the rest of the year. Online teamwork and agility are now an essential component of most organizations, and if you can write clearly with fewer words, your requests will slice through the clutter.

Enter The Tongue and Quill, the official communication manual of the United States Air Force that is available to download for free. From best practices for meetings to brand guidelines for public speaking, this 370-page handbook is a treasure trove of protocols for anyone who wants to write and speak with brevity and clarity.

Related: The Secret to Writing Emails with Military Precision

As a writer and marketing strategist, I'm always looking for ways to capture attention in less time and land my point effectively, whether it be for myself or for my clients. So here are three protocols The Tongue and Quill recommends for online communication that can improve virtual messaging efforts within your organization.

1. Keep it brief and use the BLIND method

Nix the small talk. The BLIND approach to online communication delivers recommended actions, necessary context and a sense of urgency in a simple way.

  • BL indicates the bottom line and prioritizes the most essential information first

  • I stands for impact on the organization, providing context and urgency

  • N recommends the next action step

  • D outlines any other pertinent details

If you find yourself wanting a more systematized approach for daily updates within your organization, the BLIND approach gets the job done. This template, while originally recommended for email communication, can cross over nicely into other platforms.

Related: How Employers Can Bridge the Communication Gap With Veterans

2. Go even shorter with the BLUF protocol

BLUF stands for "Bottom Line Up Front" and eschews any particular template or format, instead getting to the point as quickly as possible.

Because this information can come off cold, it helps to introduce the idea to your team and have them indicate BLUF at the top of their communication. An example within The Tongue And Quill shows the acronym BLUF appearing first in the body of an email, which gives readers context into the short and direct communication that follows.

It helps readers and listeners focus when you explain how subsequent information has been organized. This is the same reason numbers in headlines tend to get a better click through rate; a number frames how much information the reader can expect to navigate, which reduces mental friction. If you want more people to read your writing, set their expectations from the start.

Related: Three Lessons From The Military That Can Help Business Leaders Battle The Crisis

3. Present department opinions with the eSSS format

eSSS translates to Electronic Staff Summary Sheet and is used throughout both written and verbal Air Force communications. Sometimes the most pertinent points for you to communicate are status updates and opinions of other departments in a roundup format.

The Tongue And Quill recommends that you open your communication with a statement of purpose and any necessary background information. The Air Force even recommends these subheadings be left-aligned and in all capital letters for formatting familiarity; the most frequent subheadings include "PURPOSE," "BACKGROUND," "VIEWS OF OTHERS" and "RECOMMENDATION."

Seeing as many teams now have to work remotely, summary sheet communication can give your employees a running start. Online scheduling service Doodle studied 19 million meetings last year in its State of Meetings Report and found through interviews with 6,500 professionals that ineffective meetings cost U.S. businesses an estimated $399 billion in 2019.

More precise communication will help grow your business, so consider adopting one or more of the above formats, which have been honed over many years and taught to millions of service people. Over time, your team will discover that great online teamwork starts with clear communication and yields faster, better results.

Related: 26 Inspiring Quotes About Risk-Taking and Teamwork from Military Veteran Entrepreneurs

Nick Wolny

Editor, Journalist, Consultant

A self-described “editorial mutt,” Nick Wolny is an editor, journalist and marketing consultant of seven years. He writes and edits about money, business, technology, LGBTQ life and how they intertwine. Learn more at

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Business News

Photos Leak of McDonald's New Space Age Spinoff Restaurant 'CosMc's'

The mega fast food chain is experimenting with a galactic-themed restaurant, drawing inspiration from an alien character featured in its 1980s commercials.

Side Hustle

This Millennial Dad Just Wanted to Help His Daughter Care for Her Bearded Dragon. Then His Cricket-Breeding Side Hustle Exploded — Earning $27,000 in One Month.

It wasn't Jeff Neal's first attempt at a side gig, and before long, the "prototypical millennial side-hustler" realized his product had major potential.


If You Want People to Follow You, Stop Being a Boss — 8 Steps to Truly Effective Leadership

Understand the key differences and embark on the journey from boss to leader with these eight vital steps. This article unveils how to inspire and lead teams with passion and purpose.


4 Out of 5 Entrepreneurs Step Down as CEO — Here Are 3 Things You Need to Do So You're Not One of Them.

Navigating the journey from entrepreneur to CEO is a profound transformation, one that often separates visionary founders from effective business leaders.

Health & Wellness

Embrace the Art of Saying No: 4 Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries

Enforcing your own boundaries can be hard, but it's so important to master this skill. If you practice these four steps, you'll find it doesn't have to be so difficult.