Few things damage a proposal faster than poor writing. This doesn’t just mean just watching out for misspelled words and improper grammar. There are other things to consider when crafting your proposals. Remember, you are writing for the evaluator.
Beware of these six traps when writing your proposals:
Active and passive voice. Both active and passive sentences convey action, but active sentences are more persuasive, decisive, and confident. Proposals written in active, strong, and clear language are more effective; where passive voice tends to create longer sentences. Decreasing passive voice will shorten proposal sections and give your reader a more persuasive and clear proposal.
Choosing incorrect or unfamiliar words. Selecting the right word makes proposals and sales documents more persuasive, effective, and easier to evaluate. Common word problems include wordy phrases, incorrect words, and words with more than one meaning. Use words and phrases familiar to the customer.
Clichés. These are worn-out phrases or words that aren’t effective. Avoid them like the plague (for example). Clichés can be tempting when you’re struggling to express an idea, but regular use usually indicates a lack of thought and effort and can be a distraction to the evaluator.
False subjects. These are words like it and there that refer to nothing. False subjects displace the true subject of a sentence, waste the reader’s time and obscure meaning. For example: “There are several reasons to…”; or: “It is probable that…”.
Gobbledygook. This is pompous or abstract words and phrases that garble, obscure, or confuse meaning. You can eliminate gobbledygook by using specific, concise words and phrases that are familiar to the customer.
Jargon. Using jargon reduces the persuasiveness of documents, and excessive, unfamiliar jargon can even give an arrogant tone. While intelligent, many proposal evaluators are not as expert as the writer, and using jargon may confuse your meaning. Use jargon only when customers are familiar with it and then only when plain English will not suffice.
When you avoid these traps in your proposals, it results in a more clearly structured message that allows your customers to see the benefits you are offering. Clear writing demonstrates a high degree of customer focus in your proposal.
Read more about these subjects in the Shipley Proposal Guide.