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Clichés to Avoid in Proposals

“My fear now is of cliche, of complacency, of not being able to feel authenticity in myself and those around me.” – John Hawkes

At the cost of sounding clichéd (pun intended) here is an excerpt from a blog by Jayme Sokolow, the recipient of Fellows Award and a Vision Award from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals for his contributions to the proposal profession. We found this hilarious but completely true:

Best of breed
If you are not selling puppies, why claim that your solution is the “best of breed?” The phrase comes from the world of show dogs.

Managers who are “well-seasoned” probably have been consuming too much pepper and nutmeg.

Hit the ground running
Are you training for the Olympics or trying to get a grant?

Now obviously he is being a bit straight-forward here and common sense and respecting the tone of the proposal should always come first but the point remains, say what you mean. While we certainly don’t want to use the above clichés in a business proposal, there are still plenty of common and overly used clichés out there. So here is a list of some of the most obvious ones. And just so we don’t look like we’re throwing around criticism (in bold) without a solution, here are some possible replacements (in red)

  1. According to our data – Unless you are hell bent on sending a compilation of the ‘data’ that has led you to this conclusion (another cliché), a simple “we find” may suffice.
  2. A sufficient amount of – Sufficient enough for whom? “Enough
  3. Along the lines of – “like
  4. As is the case – “As is true” in most cases, less is better.
  5. Ascertain the location of – Sorry no comments on this, too wordy to “find” a dig for it.
  6. At such time as – You say this “when” you don’t really have anything to fill the proposal with.
  7. At the present time – you could gift wrap it but no time for that “now
  8. By a factor of two – “two times”, “double”, “twice” so many other things you could say instead.
  9. Has been proved to be – “is’’ four words too long.
  10. In all cases – “always” stay clear of twisted words.
  11. In the event that – “if” we can make an event of nothing.

And then are the ones that have no business being there at all:

it has been found that, it has long been known that, it is a fact that, it is evident that, it is noted that, it is well known that, it may be said that.

Love this blog? Go ahead and have a quick look at one more blog that is equally good!


Enough of the don’ts, let’s get down to what you need to do.

  • Keep it Simple. Use the right word at the right time in the right context
  • Be specific. Give evaluators their time’s worth in the proposal. Give them details that matter and that will add to your credibility rather than stuffing the pages with grandiose and sweeping statements.
  • Use graphics, examples, analogies and comparisons if you feel it will make your point clearer.

So there you go. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

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