SECTION PAGE Introduction . . . . . . . . 1
How to Write an Effective Report . . . . . 3
The OPR—Form and Format . . . . . 13
The EPR—Form and Format . . . . . . 23
The Promotion Recommendation Form . . . . 45
Reporting is an inevitable part of our careers as military members. Documents such as officer performance reports (OPR), enlisted performance reports (EPR), and promotion recommendation forms (PRF) are used in promotion boards, professional military education (PME) selections, selective early retirement boards (SERB), reductions in force (RIF), command and special duty selections, and courts martial. Equally as important is their use by commanders when looking to fill a position, selecting candidates for promotion, rank-ordering individuals for boards and other personnel actions. How well the report communicates the military member’s performance is pivotal in deciding his/her future. The reports also represent and communicate the 55th Wing mission to all other agencies who view them. Clear, concise, meaningful writing is the goal.
The following pages provide you with the tools you need to write a good performance report (PR)—one that accurately reflects the quality of the individual. Read this guide and use the tools—if you see a way to make it better, please let your PR monitor or your group executive officer know!
[Wing-specific guidelines are marked with a (W) to help you determine what is local policy].
WHAT’S IMPORTANT? We are most concerned with five major facets of a report: accuracy, timeliness, appearance, clarity and strength.
ACCURACY is obviously important in its own right, but it’s much more than just getting your facts straight. Accuracy also means communicating the intent effectively to the reader, no matter who the reader is. The paper must represent the person. Accuracy keeps the integrity of the author intact and eliminates any question about the factualness of the document. An inaccurate report reflects negatively on both the rater and ratee.
TIMELINESS is important because a report cannot help the member for a selection board if it is not in the records on time. Few things can be more damaging than reviewing records on an officer and seeing the most current evaluation is over a year old. What has he or she done recently? Although not intentional, an out-of-date record of performance could be a negative reflection on the ratee and may not accurately reflect the current level of responsibility or current promotion/job/PME recommendations. In fact, an enlisted person without a current report can actually be eliminated for promotion consideration at the same time as his/her peer group! (W) A late “shell” or “rip” from MilPDS/PCIII is not an excuse for a late or forgotten performance report. It remains the responsibility of the rater to ensure reports are completed on time.
APPEARANCE may seem trivial—so what, you may say, if there's a smudge on the page or a word is misspelled? The individual reading the report is not perfect either. However, we all make value judgments, subconsciously as well as consciously, when we read a report. The appearance of a report—spelling, punctuation, grammar, neatness—has an undeniable effect on the reader's judgment. For example, lines that do not fill the blocks—i.e., excessive “white space”—can send a distinct message, one that is almost always negative. Every effort should be made to eliminate errors and inconsistencies. We can’t afford to take a chance on anyone's career and livelihood. You don’t have to live with this report the rest of your life, but your ratee will.
CLARITY means writing simple, well-constructed sentences complete with subject, verb, and object. Never assume the reader understands the mission. NEVER try and talk around classified information. Determine how to express the accomplishments of the wing and the ratee through simple words and clear context. Ask yourself, “Would a person from any career field understand this document?” If the answer is no, review and revise.
STRENGTHis the most important aspect of a report or recommendation form. What has the ratee accomplished, and what were the RESULTS? Use hard-hitting facts! Stay away from generalized, flowery, or non-duty-related statements. Providing accurate and strong statements regarding a ratee's performance gives the reader a picture of how this individual fits in and stands out. Use stratification and quantitative figures when possible. Remember that stratification without qualification is meaningless. Bottom line—accurately conveyed results will leave a long-lasting impression.
REFERENCES. For further information, consult the appropriate AF instruction or administrative document:
AFI 36-2406, Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems
AFH 33-337, The Tongue and Quill
How to Write an Effective Report
The words, the sentence structure and the thoughts portrayed in each line of a report must be put together correctly to create the most effective report possible. Effective writing is more art than science, and like art, it involves skills. Not everyone will be born with these skills, but everyone can improve themselves with education and practice. Effective writing cannot take the “cookie-cutter” approach by simply choosing a phrase from Column A and another from Column B.
Just as each military member is unique, each report is unique and must tell its own story. The goal of the author of the report is to paint the most accurate picture of the ratee. Not everyone will receive the best possible report, but everyone should receive the best report possible. Each report must be the best representation of that person.
In order to write the most effective reports, there are three levels of understanding:
Rules—to be followed by everyone in the generation of OPRs, EPRs, and PRFs (AFIs, etc.).
Guidelines—more subjective than rules, usually commander-specific (when to use bullets, etc.).
Techniques—“tricks of the trade” used to make the reports more effective (how to stratify, active vs. passive voice, etc.).
The guidance in this section applies to everyone in the rating process. While OPR/EPR/PRFs should follow the rules of grammar, there are some exceptions—these differences are discussed below
Active versus Passive. Yes, you've heard it before—write actively! Active writing puts the emphasis on the person rather than some object. It adds impact and punch to your writing. Reach out and grab your reader’s attention. Passive voice is typically weak and loses the reader’s focus. Remember to put the doer before the verb:
ACTIVE: Capt Snuffy reduced aircraft downtime by expediting supply channels
Past Tense. The rating period of the report is in the past, not in the present or the future—use past tense to describe those actions that the ratee accomplished.
Bullet Format. Current Air Force instructions require the use of bullets in the performance reports. In fact, for years, feedback from promotion and selection boards has indicated a preference for bullet format. Bulletized sentences are easier to read and have a much greater impact. Use bullets in accomplishment/assessment blocks. Some rules of thumb are:
Avoid two-line bullets, if at all possible. Most sentences can be broken up into two separate bullets to avoid the wrap-around line. Again, the goal is for punch. The wrap-around is harder to read and takes away from the punch. NEVER wrap the same bullet to a third line!
Avoid more than two sub-bullets per main bullet.
Avoid the triple bullet (sub-sub bullet).
Use a return (hit “enter”) at the end of each line to eliminate spacing errors due to differences in printers used with the PR software.
Bullet Guidance. (W) Don’t start a bullet with a number in numerical form. Also, bullets don’t have to be complete sentences as long as they read well (yes, it's somewhat subjective). For example:
NO: - 12 sorties flown… (Passive voice, starting with a numeral)
OK: - Flew 12 sorties… (active voice, subject is implied to be the ratee)
Start the bullet with a dash followed by one space and then the text.
- First main bullet justified on the left margin
-- If you must wrap a bullet to a second line, line up the second line
with the text above it
-- Sub-bullets have two spaces, then two dashes, a space, then the text
- Second main bullet lines up with the first main bullet
Clichés. Clichés can detract from an otherwise strong bullet. Board members see them so often they become comical, and the report loses its meaning/emphasis. Don’t use them indiscriminately. Find expressive adjectives/adverbs to use if possible.
Passive, boring: “Whenever a tough challenge comes along, Capt Jones is always a
natural choice, and the job never fails to get done”
Active, vivid: “If program managers were Thunderbirds, Maj Smith would fly lead!”
Vivid, gripping: “Grabs every challenge by the throat”
“Blazing intellect and iron will”
Active, vivid, but too cute: “If you threw him into a swamp full of alligators, he’d march
out the other end with swamp drained and the alligators in
Acronyms and Abbreviations. Use of acronyms and abbreviations can make a report almost meaningless to a reader unfamiliar with your mission. The reader, regardless of his/her background or specialty code, should understand all acronyms and abbreviations. You should ask yourself if the personnel officer, fighter pilot, or comm officer sitting on a promotion/selection board can understand the report. Or more simply put, will your grandmother understand the report? A reader that cannot understand the report will quickly lose interest, leaving a negative effect on the ratee. If you use an acronym or abbreviation in a report, be sure to define it before you use it in subsequent paragraphs. There’s no need to define acronyms and abbreviations if you don't use them again later. There is also no need to define the acronyms and abbreviations if they are understood by the entire populous of the AF. Lengthy acronyms can be reworded rather than spelled out to save space. See some examples below and also Appendix 3 for a list of wing-approved acronyms and abbreviations.
NO: “Ensured 100-percent mission success for the COBRA BALL mission…” (To an uninformed reader, “COBRA BALL” means nothing. Board members in most cases are not intimately familiar with the 55th Wing’s missions.)
BETTER: “Guaranteed 100% mission success for JCS-directed intelligence mission by…”
REMINDER: If you mention the “Super Dee-Duper Electro Gizmo (SD2EG),” define it first: “…increased the SD2EG on-time success rate by 50%
Punctuation. The following is a quick look at punctuation. Further guidance on punctuation can be found in The Tongue and Quill.
Periods and exclamation points.Don’t use periods at the end of the bullets. (W) One exception is in the duty description block, which is still in sentence format. In this block, use periods at the end of each sentence. Exclamation points (!) should only be used at the end of the first and/or last lines of the accomplishment/assessment sections. You can use exclamation points inside a bullet and at the end of a bullet other than the first/last lines of the assessment sections, but use them very sparingly! Ensure that there are two spaces between sentences. Take a step back from the report and look at the entire block for the impact of those exclamation points. (W) Generally speaking, there shouldn’t be more than two in a block, and no more than four on a page. More than that and your emphasis is lost.
The Double Dash. The double dash is made by two hyphens, "--". It is used to break up a statement for easier reading. Although not a hard-and-fast rule, try to avoid using the double dash more than twice in a sentence. It may be too difficult for the eye to follow. To correctly use the double dash, don’t capitalize the letter immediately following the double dash, and don’t put spaces immediately before or after the dash.
OK: - My best maintenance officer of 10--ensured 100-percent on-time take-off record
The Comma. Commas have several uses. The most common use is separating a set of three or more words or phrases. (W) Do not put a comma before the “and” or the “or” in the series
Flew intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft
The other use of the comma is to separate two separate sentences joined by a conjunction (and, but, or, etc.). If you can remove the conjunction and still have two separate and complete sentences, the comma is needed:
He flew 12 sorties and returned to station 50% earlier than anticipated
BUT He flew 12 sorties, and the aircraft returned to station 50% earlier than anticipated
The Ellipsis. The ellipsis is used to indicate a pause or faultering speech within a quoted sentence or at the end of a sentence that is deliberately incomplete. It is also used to indicate an omission of a portion of quoted material.
“I…don’t know…I don’t know if I can make it.”
“Four score and … our … brought forth…”
The Colon. Use a colon to introduce a list, explanation, or a quotation following a complete statement.
Capt America won three awards: MSG CGO of Yr, 55 WG CGO of Yr and ACC CGO of Yr
The Semi-Colon. The semi-colon is used to separate independent clauses not connected by a conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, etc.), and in statements too closely related in meaning to be written as separate sentences. It is also used before transitional words and phrases, such as “however.”
Flew 12 sorties; mission accomplished
Flew 12 sorties--met with international conflicts; however, mission accomplished
Responsible for operations scheduling; training of new officers; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft missions
Maintenance failures cancelled sortie; however, Capt Snuffy never missed a beat
Subject-Verb Agreement. The subject of the sentence and the verb must agree in number. Examine a complex sentence carefully to see what subject the verb is tied to, and make them agree. If you have a compound subject, the verb is plural. Some examples of good subject-verb agreement are:
- Capt Bart's effort to align maintenance and operations is noteworthy
- The unit was successful in its mission (singular “unit”)
- The team of inspectors was thorough (“was” agrees with “team”)
Numbers.The Tongue and Quill, pp 275-280, has some solid guidance for how to write numbers. Generally, numbers 10 and higher are written in numeral form, and numbers less than 10 are written in words (i.e., one, five, 10, 33, etc.). The major exceptions are times, dates, ages, monetary amounts, measurements, dimensions, sizes, percentages, scores, abbreviations, document identifiers, military unit designations, and unit modifiers (hyphenations), which are all written in numeral form. Also, when numbers are used in a series of related items, and one or more numbers is 10 or greater, all the numbers are written as numerals. (W) The impact, bullet, and amount of space all dictate use of numbers. Numbers are eye-catching and may be used rather than word form if they create a better impact or make a better statement. Also, if you do not have enough space to spell out the number, then write it in numeral form. If the unit designator is spelled out, then use the ordinal numbers, and if abbreviated, then abbreviate the unit designator. Use a comma for numbers equal or greater than one thousand (1,000; 26,000), but spell out million (12 million, 2.8 million). As a reminder, avoid starting bullets with a number in numerical form. For example:
55th Wing or 55 WG [not 55 Wing or 55th WG]
12th Air Force or 12 AF
45th’s best captain (implying best captain in the 45 RS)
3 hours, 6 months, 3-year-old, 5 years, $2, $10,000, 100 meters, 1 percent, paragraph 3, AMCR 55-2, 5-day week, 8-foot pole, 5 Jun
- Led a mission consisting of three crew members on 12 tracks
- Led a 24-hour mission consisting of three crew members on nine tracks
- Supervised 12 CGOs, 3 SNCOs, and 4 civilians (series of related items)
- She accumulated 1,200 combat hours in three models of the –135
- Managed operations for four $1.2-billion aircraft
Hyphenation. English is a dynamic language, changing over time and through use. One such example is hyphenation, which serves to make modifier words—two or more words preceding a noun—easier to read. As time goes by and the hyphenated word becomes more familiar, the hyphen is dropped and the word is accepted as a compound word. That is why you can find two dictionaries having a word hyphenated in one but not the other. For example, worldwidewas once hyphenated as world-wide, but became common in usage, and the hyphen was eventually dropped.
How do you know when to hyphenate two words? First, check the dictionary. If the word grouping does not appear there, determine if the words are being used as a modifier. A modifier is a group of words used as one to modify another word (i.e., on-time takeoff, hard-charging officer, etc.). If the words serve to modify a noun, and are placed before the noun, then hyphenate it. However, if it forms a prepositional phrase or follows the verb (i.e., the takeoff was on time), then don’t. Don’t hyphenate two words if the first ends in “ly.”