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Proposal Writing Tips

Updated on September 12, 2011

Proposal Writing Tips

Writing proposals can seem like an arduous and difficult task however there are some basic proposal writing tips that will help improve the effectiveness and impact of your proposal writing.

Good quality proposal writing generally has the following attributes:

  • Consistent writing style
  • Correct use of grammar and punctuation
  • Content that is unambiguous, clearly written and concise
  • Content that is accurate and relevant to the subject matter
  • Consistent use of terms, spelling, capitalisation, units and currencies
  • Consistently applied formatting
  • A logical hierarchal structure
  • Consistent graphics style. Graphics should only be used where they add value to the response. All graphics should be of similar style and wherever possible, and should be designed such that the reader clearly understands the messages conveyed within the first 10 seconds of viewing.
  • Elimination of non-preferred words, including Latin and gender


If you proposal is written in response to an RFI (Request for Information) or RFP (Request for Proposal), then you should keep in mind that the receiver will want to receive a response in a structure that makes it easier for them to compare responses from different bidders.

Accordingly, it is important to follow any supplied guidelines on your response structure. Most importantly, the structure of your proposal should be planned. A preliminary table of contents can be compiled, which will act as a development plan and illustrate the intended hierarchy of sections and subsections. The preliminary table of contents will also allow other contributors to monitor the planned content of any given response, and will assist reviewers during initial reviews.

Proposal Content Tips

So what style of writing should your proposal content be in? There can be a temptation to 'waffle on' and write about aspects that you know a lot about, but which dont add any value to your proposal. In many cases this sort of writing can actively detract from the effectiveness of your document. To ensure that you keep your proposal succinct and relevant, consider the following tips on proposal content:

  • Use active (strong) verbs rather than passive
  • Use IFPBD (Identify the client Issue, state your company's Feature, state the Benefits that the feature brings, include Proofs of how these benefits have be realised in the past, cover the Differentiators that set you apart from your competition)
  • Never use 20 words where 10 will do
  • No jargon
  • No long words where short ones will suffice
  • Think about what would better to be put in an attachment or appendix rather than the main text body
  • Use graphics in JPEG, GIF or WMF format (when used with Microsoft Office applications)
  • Captions for all graphics must explain the graphic, so the reader doesn’t have to refer to the text to understand the graphic
  • Consider you page composition. Try the 30 – 30 – 30 rule: each page 30% graphics, 30% text and 30% white space
  • Don’t bury the benefits
  • Answer the question – and only the question
  • The write-up is as important as the price.
  • Mirror the customer’s terminology
  • Ensure facts, figures used are up to date
  • Ensure you are consistent and you don’t contradict yourself or others
  • Focus on the proposed contract / project execution strategy & commercial strategy
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Check length and structure of sentences
  • Be grammatically correct – use good English – and use the spell checker
  • Keep acronyms to a minimum and always introduce any acronyms you use, no matter how common they are.
  • Show them “why us – and why not them” without specifically mentioning ‘them’


There are a myriad of proposal writing tools and proposal templates available online that are either free or available at a small cost. Furthermore, there are also professional proposal writing consultants who can be hired to wordsmith, polish or desktop publish your proposal.

Proposal writing can seem like an intimidating and arduous task however with well thought out planning and research of proposal writing tools and techniques, it is possible to make the task much less daunting and achieve a more successful outcome.


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