Communication Skills

JS Tip 118: From the Proposal-Writing Workshops: Five More Suggestions

Monica Schwenk of Ogden-Weber Applied Technology College asked about proposal writing. Last week, we explored five suggestions.

We promised five more suggestions. We pick up where we left off:

6.   Use a design grid. Usually a two-thirds/one-third layout. (This relates to our fifth suggestion last week: “Make your proposal look good.”)

7.   Use short words and short sentences. Don't be fancy. The best communicators use short words: 

“Ask not what your country can do for you . . . .” 

“I have a dream.” 

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” 

“We are not the red states. We are not the blue states. We are the United States.” 

“If you can find a better car, buy it.” 

David Cooper adds how it’s critical to use their—the customer’s—terminology verbatim. Your proposal must sound like what they asked for in their request.

8.   Use visuals. Tie the visuals to the text with captions (Reference, title, and explanation: “Figure 7: Annual Savings. Your energy use will fall dramatically with the Acme 7000”).

Put a color picture of their headquarters (which you got from the internet) on the cover: “A Proposal for the Ajax Company.” (Notice: their company headquarters, not yours.) 

9.   Proofread for content and correctness. Wait a while to get a fresh look at the document. Ask your buddy to proofread the proposal.

10. Beat the deadline. (It will always take longer than you think.) Build any transmittal time into your milestone calendar. Hand carry the proposal if necessary. (Again, compliance is a first measure.)

Monica, thank you.

David, thank you.

We love this stuff. Next week: Tuckman’s four stages in team development.