• What does your audience want or need? Is your goal to persuade, inform or instruct? What words will get response? 
  • Organize your thoughts, create an outline, then amplify it.
  • Don't struggle with every word in your first draft; write with haste and energy.
  • Revise your work at least twice (the less work we do, the lower your cost).
  • Delete excess words or phrases; use short words familiar to your audience.
  • Write as if you're talking to someone. "This office is in receipt of your letter," reads better as "We received your letter."
  • Read your text into computer voice software, play it back and listen for context, word use and flow. 
  • Don't rely on software spelling and grammar checkers; they're inadequate.
  • Drop your ego and focus strictly on purpose and goal.
  • Be aware that even minimal writing errors reduce credibility. 
  • Embrace editors as allies and analysts on your team.

Syntax and Style

  • Keep sentences short and simple. Employ transitional words and phrases to create continuity.
  • Convert passive voice to active (e.g., change "has been" to "was") when possible.
  • Avoid introductory subordinate clauses.
  • Use visual aids (indentation, bullets, symbols and graphics) for flow and comprehension.
  • Use as little punctuation as possible, as too many marks slow down readers.
  • Retain white space for emphasizing key points.
  • Keep paragraphs as short as possible; a paragraph must contain at least two sentences.


  • Occupational jargon, slang and clich├ęs cause reader difficulty; use a single word when possible.
  • Don't use nouns as verbs, e.g., "task," "impact," "leverage" or "network" are nouns, not verbs.
  • Avoid compound words or terms such as "cost-effective," "labor intensive," "breakthrough," "multi-chain" and "market-driven." 

Conventions and Courtesies

  • Currency: many nations use the "$" symbol; distinguish US$ from Can$, $A, and $Mex.
  • Geography: be precise by including states with cities, telephone area codes and time zones.
  • Decimal points: Europeans use 100,000 as 100.000 and 4,50 euros instead of 4.50 euros.
  • Offers: when writing for a US audience, have prices or special offers (such as "hot-lines" or "24-hour service") also be internationally available, or write "US only."
  • Tone: international languages are more formal than American English. For example, "Submit entries by December 2," might seem blunt to a global reader. More acceptable is "Please send completed forms before December 2."


A successful proposal must be compelling, convincing, concise and consistent (the Four Cs). Other projects also benefit from these guidelines.


Have you read a novel so intriguing that you couldn't put it down? If so, it's because each chapter started with a "hook" and ended with suspense, drawing you into the next chapter. A successful proposal must do the same. By focusing on a client's needs and identifying real benefits -- with linkage, style and clarity -- you sustain interest.


Sell your ideas. Capture attention and write enthusiastically while continually visualizing audience response. Ask yourself: is my information convincing? Effective persuasion requires empathy (the ability to understand another's motivations and feelings).


Your audience wants information that's concise or brief. For example, an executive summary is concise when compared to a 50-page business plan that follows. Droning on about company history, management, excessive charts, graphs and the like (except in business plans) translates into boring text. Dwell on key points.


Allowing several writers to work on a document typically leads to style conflict. Writers variously can be wordy, glib, academic, technical and breezy -- all in the same document. Consistency in tone, style, point of view and purpose creates continuity and professional appearance. Solution: have the best writer interview team members, take notes and create the document.

A well-written, professional-looking proposal is powerful.



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