How to Quickly Improve the Writing in Your Proposals

Quickly Improve the 
Writing in Your Proposals 
Daniel 
Maddux
Scope/responding to 
the actual 
requirement 
17% 
Inadequate reviews 
11% 
Other 
11% 
Overly 
complicated 
17% 
Schizophrenic 
11% 
Embarrassing 
boilerplate 
Vendor-focused 
11% 
11% 
Glaring text 
errors 
11% 
Biggest 
Problems 
with Text
What is the biggest problem 
with the writing in proposals? 
Content that is not compliant! I can't tell you the number of 
times I get content that does not follow the outline provided, 
does not answer the question fully, or completely ignores the 
page requirements. 
Jeannette Waldie, CPP APMP 
Owner at J. K. Waldie & Associates
Is King 
King Content gets dumped.
Complicated
…Perhaps the most common problem, however, 
is that a well-intentioned and informed writer 
simply fails to get the message across to an 
intelligent, interested reader. In that case, stilted 
jargon and complex constructions are usually the 
villains. 
Warren Buffet 
preface to the SEC Plain English handbook
REMEDIES 
key question 
Does it make 
sense the first 
time you read it? 
tool any others? 
Use metrics.
EXERCISE 
Use Word 
metrics 
to simplify 
writing
Focus
One the biggest problems with the text in proposals? 
Talking about your own company WAY TOO MUCH! The 
focus should be on the client. I try to use the rule of 
using your clients' name three times more than your 
own.” 
Krissy Chaney 
Proposal Writer at RTL Networks, Inc
REMEDIES 
key question 
How many times 
did you use the 
customer’s 
name vs. yours? 
tool any others? 
Plan the focus 
up front. 
Prioritize key 
sections.
EXERCISE 
Rewrite a 
vendor-focused 
section of text
Text Errors
Do not 
tolerate 
any mElitie Doscumetntaation Ekmployeee Stasndard.s
REMEDIES 
key question 
Does any of this 
make us look 
dumb? 
tool 
Use a different 
set of eyes. 
any others?
Find as many 
errors as you 
can! 
EXERCISE
Text
Different authors may yield different 
styles or voice. These differences may 
also manifest themselves with the facts ... 
Somebody has to do a “horizontal 
alignment” check. 
Al Pena 
Principal at A&M CoOp
REMEDIES 
key question 
Do we have a 
pre-existing 
standard? 
tool 
Make sure 
you do! 
Have a rational 
workflow. 
any others?
EXERCISE 
Determine what 
needs to be 
standardized
Boilerplate
Nothing says "I don't give a fig" 
like calling the customer Acme 
Manufacturing when their name 
is Amalgamated International. 
Peter Baron 
Head of Bid Management at Bull Information Systems
REMEDIES 
key question 
Which parts do 
we need to 
customize 
for each 
customer? 
tool any others? 
Have a list of key 
text to customize. 
Use standard terms.
EXERCISE 
Brainstorm for 
key kinds of 
information 
to look for
Daniel Maddux 
(713)742-3341 
elitedocumentation.com 
dmaddux@elitedocumentation.com
1 of 25

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How to Quickly Improve the Writing in Your Proposals

  • 1. Quickly Improve the Writing in Your Proposals Daniel Maddux
  • 2. Scope/responding to the actual requirement 17% Inadequate reviews 11% Other 11% Overly complicated 17% Schizophrenic 11% Embarrassing boilerplate Vendor-focused 11% 11% Glaring text errors 11% Biggest Problems with Text
  • 3. What is the biggest problem with the writing in proposals? Content that is not compliant! I can't tell you the number of times I get content that does not follow the outline provided, does not answer the question fully, or completely ignores the page requirements. Jeannette Waldie, CPP APMP Owner at J. K. Waldie & Associates
  • 4. Is King King Content gets dumped.
  • 6. …Perhaps the most common problem, however, is that a well-intentioned and informed writer simply fails to get the message across to an intelligent, interested reader. In that case, stilted jargon and complex constructions are usually the villains. Warren Buffet preface to the SEC Plain English handbook
  • 7. REMEDIES key question Does it make sense the first time you read it? tool any others? Use metrics.
  • 8. EXERCISE Use Word metrics to simplify writing
  • 10. One the biggest problems with the text in proposals? Talking about your own company WAY TOO MUCH! The focus should be on the client. I try to use the rule of using your clients' name three times more than your own.” Krissy Chaney Proposal Writer at RTL Networks, Inc
  • 11. REMEDIES key question How many times did you use the customer’s name vs. yours? tool any others? Plan the focus up front. Prioritize key sections.
  • 12. EXERCISE Rewrite a vendor-focused section of text
  • 14. Do not tolerate any mElitie Doscumetntaation Ekmployeee Stasndard.s
  • 15. REMEDIES key question Does any of this make us look dumb? tool Use a different set of eyes. any others?
  • 16. Find as many errors as you can! EXERCISE
  • 17. Text
  • 18. Different authors may yield different styles or voice. These differences may also manifest themselves with the facts ... Somebody has to do a “horizontal alignment” check. Al Pena Principal at A&M CoOp
  • 19. REMEDIES key question Do we have a pre-existing standard? tool Make sure you do! Have a rational workflow. any others?
  • 20. EXERCISE Determine what needs to be standardized
  • 22. Nothing says "I don't give a fig" like calling the customer Acme Manufacturing when their name is Amalgamated International. Peter Baron Head of Bid Management at Bull Information Systems
  • 23. REMEDIES key question Which parts do we need to customize for each customer? tool any others? Have a list of key text to customize. Use standard terms.
  • 24. EXERCISE Brainstorm for key kinds of information to look for
  • 25. Daniel Maddux (713)742-3341 elitedocumentation.com dmaddux@elitedocumentation.com