Your proposal tells your story.  The goal is to be concise, informative and relevant…and most importantly answer the proverbial ‘question’ (i.e., if the contract is seeking a solution, provide the solution clearly and demonstrate how it solves their problem or fulfills their needs).   But how you craft your response including the wording that you use, your ‘voice’, and how you tell your story can make or break your proposal.


Inappropriate wording or phrases can weaken a proposal and even undermine the credibility of the bidder. Appropriate and proper wording and phrases can strengthen a proposal, please evaluators, and strengthen the credibility of a bidder. Oftentimes there are restrictive page limits and it’s important that your words pack a punch.  Every word matters, so stay on track, trim the fat, and make the point clearly and concisely.  Sometimes words aren’t as valuable as visualization through graphics such as charts, workflows, and design concepts.


Some words that should be avoided in proposal writings include crutch words. Do not write that you understand something, without explaining your understanding. In other words, don’t say “We are very knowledgeable about software automation and understand how to build an automation tool that performs data management, storage and retrieval.”  Instead say “We utilize X tools in Y environment and develop built-in scripting, algorithms, and keystrokes to perform automated tasks that support activities including data management, storage and retrieval that streamline the process and can reduce time by 80%.” The proposal would be much stronger if the writer demonstrated an understanding of the requirements by discussing how features of their proposal fulfill customer requirements. Avoid using the word understand in your proposal. It will most certainly be a crutch that replaces what should be a discussion of your understanding.


Another type of word to avoid is weak/timid words. For example, we think, we believe, we feel, etc. Say what you intend to do, state the facts, don’t be timid. Instead of saying, “We feel that our past performance differentiates us from our competitors because…” and instead say “Our past performance differentiates us from our competitors because…”   It is also important to avoid unnecessary qualifiers such as we are absolutely certain, needless to say, now and again, etc. As important as it is to not be under-confident, it is just as important to not be overconfident. There is no ‘we got you’ in proposal writing, prove it!


Slang words are also a type of word that should be avoided when writing proposals. Proposals are meant to be formal, and it can even be included as part of a future contract, so avoid using slang words. There are many other types of words that should also be avoided during proposal writing, but the ones highlighted here are extremely important not to use.


In conclusion, the wording of your proposal can be the deciding factor of whether or not your proposal gets accepted. It sets a tone and tells your story.  It is costly and time-consuming to compete for awards and there’s only one shot to get it right.  Make sure you know what you want to say and say it with a purpose.


Future article topics: Cost proposals and financials coming soon!!




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