How to Write Email with Military Precision

In the military, soldiers learn how to push past their perceived limits and that involves wading through their inboxes to keep on top of an endless stream of messages. Additionally, they are forced to process mission critical emails: which could mean life or death. Find out their email protocol anyone can use to write more efficient emails.

Fact: In the military, soldiers learn how to push past their perceived limits.
And that involves wading through their inboxes just to keep on top of an endless stream of messages. Additionally, they are forced to process mission critical emails promptly: which could mean the difference between life and death.

With so much at stake, the military is forced to come up with email strategies that not only make their work easier but also ensure that critical information is relayed successfully. According to a recent post by a Navy veteran, Kabir Sehgal, the military has embraced an email protocol that anyone can use to write more efficient emails.

Why is it important to us all?

Adopting that protocol, businesses (or sales persons) will introduce clarity to their email communication. And as a result, make sure the recipient receives exactly the kind of information you wanted to pass. Your poorly formatted email could derail many of your otherwise succesful marketing efforts: the difference between mission accomplished and mission failure.

Whether you sell products or are in the service industry, you can always make your emails cleaner and crisper. As such, your campaign will elicit quicker, higher-quality responses from colleagues and clients.

Now, how can you format emails with military precision? Here are three main tips we can draw from the post.

1. Make the most of your subject line

Yes, the subject line and your name is the first thing your prospect (recipient) sees once the email pops in their inbox.
Your subject line tells them the core message contained in your email. So, make the subject clearly state the purpose of the email. Specifically, highlight what you want them to do with the message. For purposes of emphasis, the military personnel has devised keywords that characterize the nature of email in their subject lines.

Some of these keywords include:

  • INFO – This means this email is intended for informational purposes only. The recipient isn’t required to respond or perform any action.
  • DECISION – Means the recipient is required to make a particular decision.
  • ACTION – Means recipient needs to take act
  • SIGN – Means the recipients needs to provide their signature.
  • REQUEST – Seeks approval or permission by the recipient.
  • COORD – Means there needs to be coordination with or by the recipient.

Now, next time you plan to email your prospects or customers direct reports or a status update, you can for subject lines like:

  • INFO – Status Update, or
  • INFO – End of year report

And, where you need HR to review your pay rise, you could write REQUEST – Review pay increase. Translated to email marketing, clarity in your subject line and CTA is an easy way to increase your email marketing click-rate.

Now, these keywords are not obvious or needless shouting exclamatory because of capitalization. Which would makes for poor email etiquette. Instead, these emails prompt you to think about what you want from someone before you contribute to their inbox clutter.

2. BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) Your Emails

Yes, the military is known for coining an acronym for everything.
Thy lead their emails with short acronym they refer to as the BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front.
The acronym tells the reader the purpose or action required. This acronym should answer – what, who, when, why and where about the message in the email.

Why is the BLUF important?
The acronym helps the readers quickly digest information, announcement, or critical decisions the background info that prompted the decision.
But, most of your non-military might not understand this acronym. To pass the message better, Kabir started leading with “Bottom Line” in bold at the start of my notes.
Now, below is a perfect example of BLUF in action on corporate emails.

Subject: Action – Permission to close your file
Bottom Line: By the end of this week, we will be closing files for the month. Will you allow us to close your file?
Background: We haven’t heard back from you for quite some time. And, typically when we haven’t heard back from someone it either means aren’t interested or are very busy. If you are still interested, we’d love to hear what your feelings or recommendations are.
Thanks a bunch for your help.

Greg knows that response is required because it was marked action. He also quickly grasps the information in the email because of the Bottom Line. Because this is a big decision by the company, it also provides background information that prompted the decision.

3. Be Economical

The military has to grapple with a horde of emails on a daily basis. And, to achieve that, the military personnel know long emails are not as effective as the short emails.
So, they have mastered the art of crafting short emails that carry all the info they need. The trick is: they steer clear of passive voice because it makes sentences longer.
According to one military manual, passive verbs muddy verbs besides twisting and lengthening sentences.

Instead, the sales rep should focus on active voice. Active voice makes the verbs work for you. Checkout some awesome tips on writing short emails by Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

But: It doesn’t mean all long emails don’t work. There are exceptional situations where long emails work better. If you feel your emails need to be longer, you add background info encompassing all you need. But make sure your prospects have grasped your message.

4. No Bulky Attachments


The military prefers to link to attachments rather than attaching files. Consider adding a link to an Apple Wallet business card that links to all other necessary information, including your contact information. Here is the benefit. This strategy not only helps:
• Verify that the recipient has security clearance to access the files.
• Provides the recipient with the most recent info from the website.

Summing it up…

Email communication can be tricky. To prevent clogging inboxes, military professionals have devised email correspondence strategies that make it communication easier and efficient. Whether it about coming up with acronyms or breaking down info to skeleton– telling the reader the core message – the military does it better than most corporate entities.

Over to you…

Have you ever use the military techniques to ramp up response rate? OR you have other email techniques that have landed you more customers than the traditional methods?

Dhruv Patel

Dhruv Patel is a marketer & co-founder at SalesHandy, a sales engagement platform for data focused sales teams. Loves to play around vectors & designing. Most of the time you will find smile on this face.