Writing Winning Proposals – Part Two
Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Last week I talked about the four key areas that are crucial when writing any sort of proposal: pertinence, persuasiveness, proof, and perfection. If you’ve covered all these in your writing, your offer should be clear and enticing to your client, putting you in a very good position.
This post will focus on the final two areas – proof and perfection – and how you can apply them to your writing.
While all four of these areas will affect how your reader feels about your company or offer, perhaps the easiest one to correct is getting your text perfect.
Nothing impacts your credibility and professionalism like poor spelling, grammar, or tons of robospeak. (What is robospeak? Keep reading.) It breaks your reader’s engagement and makes you look like you didn’t put the time in to get the fine details right.
Use the Tools You Have
The built-in spell checker within Word or other word processing packages is a good start. However, keep in mind that they don’t pick up everything – you can have incorrect words that are spelled perfectly, such as:
We work for both private and pubic sector clients. (public)
We not have safety checks on all sites at the start of the shift. (now)
While you’ll likely make your reader laugh, this isn’t the impression you want to leave your client with.
Also, bear in mind that not everything that Word says is grammatically correct is true. This screenshot I took is a perfect example:
“We is proud” only sounds right if you is gangsta.
Other programs such as Grammarly can also have their glitches, so be wary of relying on them completely. The best bet is to run the checker, but check every suggestion. Once that’s done, ask someone who isn’t involved (if possible) to read through the piece again.
If you want a belt and braces approach, you can find a professional editor or proofreader who specialises in your area at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders’ Directory of Editorial Services.
Avoid RobospeakRobospeak is my term for corporate words that look good but make no sense to the reader. It’s tempting to use the latest buzzwords (innovative, anyone?) and put them wherever they can be fit into your text, but the end result often means that your audience has no idea what you’re saying. Take this excerpt from a job advert I saw:
It is completely unclear what this job is, and the activities they are supposed to carry out. You might eventually guess that they are looking for someone to coordinate the designs between multiple engineers or sections, but it’s a slog getting there.
Don’t make your reader re-read your offer several times and guess at what you’re saying: ditch the robospeak, and use plain English.
Cut the Filler
Try to keep your text as strong as possible by removing useless words that don’t add anything to the sentence. Words you want to avoid include: really, very, just, totally, completely, literally, absolutely, definitely, actually, virtually, basically, and obviously.
In last week’s post, I touched on proof and how it makes statements persuasive. It is very easy to write claims that sound amazing, but have no proof – and clients know this.
Without any evidence to back up your statements, your reader is likely to take it with a generous pinch of salt, instantly damaging your credibility with them. You can avoid this with compelling proof.
Numbers Beat Words
Wherever possible, provide numerical evidence of your claims. Once a number is attached, it becomes very strong proof – a fact, rather than a subjective statement. It also shows your actual results, which makes people take notice. After all, if you can do it, perhaps you can help them achieve the same outcome – or even better (what’s in it for the client).
For example, compare these two statements from last week’s post:
A: Our hard hats have integral lighting which has improved our staff’s night-time safety.
B: Our hard hats have integral lighting, which improves our staff’s safety because they can see more clearly at night. Since introducing these hats, we have had a 40% reduction in night-time slips, trips, and falls.
If you were a client who was concerned about their safety record, which offer would you choose? Statement A tells the reader why they would want that improvement for themselves, but Statement B makes it crystal clear what they are getting: 40% less accidents.
Make it Visual
A great way to make your proof stand out is to use graphics and tables to illustrate your point. After the 43rd tender document, even the most vigilant reviewer is likely to start going text blind.
Use linear or bar charts to show improvement over time, whether that is an increasing or decreasing statistic. These are particularly good for health and safety scores.
If you want to show the make-up of something, choose a pie chart – for example, showing how much of your waste you recycle or tip.
If you want to show how this make-up has changed over time, use a stacked bar chart: for instance, use this to show how the diversity of your workforce has improved in recent years.
Strong evidence provided in a clear, polished document is an effective way to make your proposal compelling and memorable – the qualities of winning proposals.
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