The Air Force said Wednesday that it will begin using a streamlined promotion recommendation form for officers beginning this September..

The narrative portion of the form, which has been nine lines, will now be reduced to two lines. Promotion boards will also be given more guidance for stratifying officers, or how officers are judged against their peers, and for crafting comments used in the stratification process, the Air Force said in a release.

In the release, Shon Manasco, the service’s assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, said the form and stratification guidance will provide senior raters “a simple and effective mechanism” to share their thoughts about an officer’s potential.

Air Force personnel chief Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly told reporters last month that the old, nine-line version of Air Force Form 709 had unintended effects. Senior raters felt pressured to write more to fill up all nine lines, Kelly said, and ended up sending unintentional messages with their word choices.

“In a nine-line, there was a lot of creative writing to take up room,” Kelly said during an April 3 briefing at the Pentagon. “The promotion board doesn’t select who goes to what assignments, who gets to be squadron commander, developmental education. Yet lots of information on the nine-line form was talking to those things, which created unintended consequences.”

Kelly used the example of a hypothetical rater recommending one officer attend developmental education, and that another officer should attend joint developmental education. Sometimes, Kelly said, a promotion board would interpret the joint education recommendation as a subtle boost for that officer.

Wednesday’s release said that comments or recommendations regarding non-promotion issues that are decided through other processes — such as jobs, assignments or developmental education — will no longer be allowed on the PRF. And the stratification guidance will help ensure the promotion board only gets information on an officer that is pertinent and directly speaks to their promotion potential.

Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.

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