Back to Air Force EPR
There aren't many things as frustrating as having the report you labored over for hours abruptly returned for editing because it's in the "wrong" format. The goal of this paper is to help avoid that problem when it comes to EPRs. The required format for entries in the Air Force EPR is the "bullet statement" format.
Bullet statement format is merely the use of short sentence fragments to describe something. The goal is communicating the fact as briefly as possible and normal sentence structure requirements, such as conjunctions and punctuation, are not required. The reason for this is economy of space. There's not many lines in an EPR and using this format allows the writer to communicate more information in the space available.
- Bullet statements are short, to-the-point descriptions of a subject.
- Bullet statements are not grammatically correct sentences. They are sentence fragments.
There are two main areas where you provide information on the EPR: the Job Description block and the Performance Assessment block. Although both areas require entries in the bullet statement format, the format for the Job Description block is different then the Performance Assessment block; it doesn't require an "impact":
When completing the Job Description section of the EPR, use bullet statements that fully describe the ratee's duties:
- Manages $1.1 B in communications infrastructure at the Louisiana missile tracking center
- Processes communications outage reports for US Northern Command theater operations
- Analyzes communications requirements and determines and engineers efficient comm links
- Assists theater operations participants in resolving procedural and operational issues
These job description bullets should begin with the action that is being described. Start the bullet statement with a present-tense verb whenever possible (Manages, Directs, Supervises, Repairs, etc.).   Normally you won't have to write your own Job Description. The workcenter usually has two or three standard versions of the workcenter's duty description that can be copied and pasted and management usually prefers that you use the accepted version. One version is used for ranks up to SrA or so and another one is used for NCOs and supervisors. Most people just leave the Job Description blank and let their supervisor fill it in since they have access to this information.
When completing the Performance Assessment blocks and the Additional Rater's Comments block, where the ratee's accomplishments are documented, the bullet format is different from the format used in the Job Description block. In these blocks, the bullet statements should have two parts:
Part 1. Describes the accomplishment.
Part 2. Describes the accomplishment's positive effect or impact.
Example: Washed over 99% of stored aircraft--reduced corrosion problems by 75%
Note that bullet statements are limited to two lines. But, even though we're allowed two lines to elaborate on each accomplishment, to give the best impression, the EPR should consist mostly of one-line bullet statements -like this:
- Traced problem on faulty panel to burned resistor, replaced--restored monitoring capability
- Delivered over 75K gals of JPTS; supported five temp assigned U-2s--zero delays to mission
- Mastered all facets of PACAF's distribution element in record time--reduced team workload
- Volunteer EMT at 932 MDS; Augmented care for Fly & Non-Fly pers; 20 pers qual'd for duty
The reason for this abbreviated style of writing is that, in the past, a lot of people had problems remembering or even identifying their accomplishments over the previous year. When it came time to fill out their EPR, typically they could only come up with three or four accomplishments and because that would fill up only about half the space in an EPR, they would have to add a lot of extra and unnecessary adjectives and big words to describe their accomplishments --just to fill the required space. The end result was a lot of fluff and hot air that didn't say much but sounded nice. The requirement for bullet statements prevents that kind of writing.
Although the goal is a single-line bullet statement, sometimes it's difficult to adequately describe a complex and important accomplishment in a single line. In that case, by all means, use two lines. Just don't use too many two-line bullets or it might appear that you don't have many real accomplishments and you're trying to fill space. The format below is commonly used for two-line bullet statements (although variations are acceptable).
- Oversaw long overdue, complicated preventive maintenance inspection on equipment
-- Trained six techs on alignments, prevented future maint delays, ensured continued ops
It consists of the main bullet and a sub-bullet. The double dash before the sub-bullet on the second line indicates that it supports the line above. The single line bullet and the two-line bullet format can be mixed as required. Liberties may be taken with this format. A bullet can consist of two or three or more fragments and the accomplishment can exceed one line and run into the second line like this :
- Provided valuable assistance to Depot maintenance team; replaced azimuth motor
electric brake assembly; enabled depot team to proceed with analysis of autotrack failure
Note that when wrapping a bullet into the second line like this, the double-dash isn't needed to identify the result or impact. Use a semicolon to separate the accomplishment and result instead. The goal is conservation of space and short, compact, meaningful statements. Bullet statements don’t have to follow strict grammatical rules. For example, substituting commas or semicolons for "and" and omitting articles such as "a" or "the" will help you shoehorn an accomplishment into a single line.
Bullet statements describing accomplishments (for the Performance Assessment Section) should begin with the action that is being described. Start the bullet statement with a past-tense verb whenever possible (Managed, Directed, Repaired, Authored, etc.)
- Registered over 3K participants...
- Identified, isolated loss of radar to fault in...
- Repaired broken nose-wheel...
Don't start a bullet statement with adjectives as in "Quickly and efficiently registered..." or "Expertly and consistently identified...". Yes, there's nothing technically wrong with saying it that way and it may be just what you want to say but the Air Force frowns on unnecessary adjectives. And this kind of thing suggests that the accomplishment isn't significant if you have to resort to this kind of word inflation. BUT, if being quick and expert is somehow above and beyond and needs to be emphasized and you can get away with it, use it!
Clarify what the individual did; be specific as possible. Review every word and evaluate whether it's too broad. If another word can narrow the meaning, use it instead. Don’t leave room for doubt. Examples: “Participated in...” could mean anything from “showed up for” to “directly managed the operation.” Make sure the EPR states what the person actually did. Another example is “Active member of Base NCO club” which could mean anything from just paying their dues to planning and organizing special events. Be specific.
Support Statements with Facts.
The overall goal of the EPR is to, as accurately and completely as possible, describe a person's performance. To that end, every statement should be qualified; every claim should be supported by a quantity or an extent. For example, consider the bullet statement:
Treated sick dogs and cats--prevented spread of communicable disease
How many sick dogs or cats were treated? Whose dogs and cats? What kind of dogs and cats? What communicable disease? What was the risk if not treated? If the answer to any of these questions isn't inspiring, then it's not important --don't mention it. But it's by asking these questions that we find the gems. For every bullet, ask Who, What, When, Why, and Where? When we ask these questions we find that 95 of the 100 total pets on base were inoculated. That's quite an accomplishment so the number of dogs and cats should be listed --95% of base pets treated. Where was the disease spread? What was its effect? It might be more dramatic and hard-hitting to say, "confined spread of fatal infections to off-base community, spared 95 lives" rather than "prevented spread of communicable disease". Study every bullet and make sure it accurately and fully expresses the accomplishment.
Use numbers, dollars, percentages, etc where you can. They help quantify results. Percentages have more impact if you clarify the scope: “increased reporting by 10 percent” could mean an increase of one if the baseline is ten. “Increased reporting 10 percent—from 900 to over 990” has more impact.
Write every bullet statement so that anyone can understand it.
The EPR will be reviewed at boards consisting of NCOs from a variety of career fields so it must be understandable to a broad audience --not only someone from your career field or squadron. If it's not understandable, you've wasted your time and might as well have turned in nothing at all.
Don't leave a lot of "white space" or unused space at the end of a bullet statement.
Officially, white space is allowed. Since the goal is to accurately describe the ratee's performance with no unnecessary adjectives, white space will naturally occur. But, if you want to go the extra mile, if you want to demonstrate that your troop is important to you and worthy of a good rating, this is where you can demonstrate a little extra effort. Reword the statement so that there is no more than five or six spaces at the end of each statement. Fill the blocks with text. Make it look as if there wasn't enough room for you to write everything you wanted to write about this fantastic troop. When the Additional Rater or future reviewers of the EPR see how well it was written and how someone labored over it, it should make them realize that this person was viewed as a person worth the effort.
Don't write "hollow” bullets.
"Dedicated NCO--allegiance to mission inspires peers” does sound grand but it isn't very specific. Without an action and a result nothing is really said and the bullet is only the rater’s opinion; it's not backed up by fact.
Different organizations have different requirements as to format. Most require the bullet statements to start with a single dash (-) and supporting bullet statements (sub-bullets) start with a double-dash (--). Most units use a semi-colon (;) or a double-dash (--) to separate the accomplishment and its result. Check with your orderly room for your unit's required format.