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7 Effective Proposal Writing Tips

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Cheryl Smith



3 min

Writing an effective proposal that lands you the deal isn’t always easy. In fact, it can often feel like a chore that sucks the motivation and focus out of you faster than a dementor's kiss.

You’re not alone. Complex technical requirements, mountains of information and tight deadlines easily make writing feel like an uphill battle. Unfortunately, well-written proposals are critical for convincing clients and winning new business.

Here are 7 effective proposal writing tips for how to write without the uphill climb.


Annotate for Focus

Take time to annotate and actively engage with the requirements. This deeper understanding and broader perspective creates a more insightful writing. 

Ask yourself: What are they really asking? Who is this important to?

  • Understand the value proposition and identify key themes and how to support them.
  • Energize readers in the first few pages. 
  • Avoid writing full paragraphs, just take notes.

Customize for Context

Simply copying and pasting won’t cut it. Customize with relevant stories and details that provide context to resonate with readers.

Ask yourself: How does this client's pains change this content?  

  • Highlight the most important points at the beginning of paragraphs and sections.
  • Be responsive, but don’t put important conclusions at the end. 
  • Avoid just swapping out a few words and calling it a day.

Solve the Problem

Focus on problem-solving to elevate your writing from informative to impactful. Tackle the core challenges head-on to establish yourself as a valuable resource.

Ask yourself: How can I make it easier for readers to understand?

  • Don't waste time, get right to the point.
  • Address the value of the project, discuss alternatives and costs of inaction.  
  • Avoid underestimating the problem or its impact. 

Educate and Engage

Inform your audience to empower them. Expertise and evidence builds trust for more engaged and receptive readers.

Ask yourself: What relevant details address this client’s outcomes?

  • Use clear explanations, relevant data and insightful analysis.
  • Give space to important topics and support claims with relevant details. 
  • Avoid information overload. 

Persuasive Proposal Writing

A persuasive approach elevates your narrative from informative to actionable. Compelling arguments, clear data and strong calls to action motivate readers to take the next step.

Ask yourself: How can I help readers visualize a prosperous outcome?

  • Anticipate the questions that might arise in readers' minds.
  • Strategically repeat and rephrase to emphasize important topics and details.
  • Avoid pushing language and overpromising. 

Connect with Readers

A touch of emotion breathes life into your writing. Share stories of overcoming challenges to evoke feelings that motivate readers to take action.

Ask yourself: How can I connect with the reader? Do I sound excited about this project?

  • Use client stories as narrative scenarios and be memorable, not boilerplate.
  • Be professional, but write as if you're having a conversation.  
  • Avoid overuse of "we" and "you."

Clarity is Still King

Clarity is the cornerstone of impactful writing. When your message is clear, your content resonates with readers, making them more receptive to your solution.

Ask yourself: Am I problem-solving, or just selling?

  • Use active voice, concise words, strong verbs, and avoid jargon.
  • Structure logically, split long sentences and paragraphs, use bullets, numbers and white space.
  • Avoid weasel words like "maybe," "potentially," or "could."

Effective Proposal Writing Tools

We've explored 7 writing tips for writing compelling proposals. But, let's be honest, writing still takes a lot of time. So, here are some practical tools for saving time to write.

  • Proposal Writing Guide. Ensure consistency, clarity, style, tone and word choice.  
  • Proposal Writing Checklist. Don't miss crucial requirements and supporting evidence.  
  • Proposal Writing Software. Streamline writing with easy access to regulated content. Co-author to build off each other's expertise faster. Stay organized and on track with task management.

Armed with these effective proposal writing strategies you are no longer facing a chore. You are writing for clients So, go forth and conquer that inbox - the world of impactful proposals awaits!

Related Article: Keep the momentum going with How to Write a Persuasive Proposal: Convincing Clients

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Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith is our Senior Content Writer. She has additionally been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Cheryl is a graduate of The George Washington University with degrees in Theatre, Communications and Literature. When she’s not sharing her passion for work, she loves drawing, writing, cooking and exploring the Virginia woodlands with her husband, their dog Chase and the fuzzy guests they host for Rover.

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