Emphatic Writing Tactics for Persuasive Proposal Oomph

Emphatic Writing Tactics for Persuasive Proposal Oomph

Cheryl Smith
05. May 2022 | 6 min read

Emphatic Writing Tactics for Persuasive Proposal Oomph

Persuasive writing is a powerful best practice when developing large, complex narrative proposals; we use it to influence evaluators and convince them to believe in our solution and take action. Writing emphatically is one of persuasive writing’s most powerful tactics. By emphasizing important words, such as experience or benefits, or important phrases like problem-solution fit or insight-enabling analytics, we strengthen our persuasive argument.

Setting aside textual effects like capitalization and font size, here are three ways to use emphatic writing to give your narrative proposal writing more persuasive oomph.
Give Space to Important Topics
When writing a narrative proposal, space is forever an issue. There are page limits to comply with and the threat of drowning evaluators in too many words. Mark Twain said, “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” In the world of government proposals the long “letter” can send a dangerous message to our evaluators, “Your project is not important enough for us to take the time to edit it down to just what’s important to you.”

We begin to edit our narrative down to its persuasive essence by questioning space. This type of space is not about the white space on the page. It’s about giving important topics, such as digital-first mandates, the right amount of space on the page to develop it. For example, take space to share at least two reasons to accept your digital-first mandates argument. Then, follow that up with some examples that lend your digital-first mandates position more validity.

When proposal teams can write collaboratively, in parallel, we can clearly see what comes before and after our portion and allocate the right amount of space to emphasize the right topics. When we allocate the right amount of space to important topics, we give it textual attention. That textual attention provides strong cues to evaluators that this is a topic worthy of their attention. That is how we gain our opportunity to engage and persuade.
Power Lies in (Relevant) Details
Providing details about our important topics is also a cue to evaluators that they are noteworthy. Yet, too many extraneous details borrowed from past proposals and our narrative feel s “cobbled” together. As they read, evaluators begin to question our attention to detail and our interest in their project.

We begin to edit our narrative details down to their relevance by being selective. That means reading reused content for applicability as well as accuracy. For example, we may leverage an overview on data optimization from a past proposal, but the supporting details reflect a different client’s challenges and goals. When we refocus those details on “what’s in it for me”, we get the best of both worlds – a more rapid turnaround to deadline and relevant, laser focused details that engage evaluators. 

When content is easy to access and reuse, we have more time to consider space and textual attention. When we can trust reusable content’s veracity, because it’s easy to maintain, we have more time to make topic supporting details relevant. By erasing the taint of reusable content, which evaluators can see a mile away, we go a long way to building credibility and trust. 

Repetition, Repetition (Rephrase)

Repetition is another way to emphasize important topics and noteworthy details. Studies show that repeating a word or phrase, such as analysis paralysis, is more likely to make it stay in a person’s mind, and even convince them of its truth. It also brings a structure and rhythm to our writing that evaluators appreciate, guarding our narratives against skimming.
But repetition is a balance. Too little repetition and we risk the evaluator won’t pick up on it. Too much repetition and we risk boring evaluators.

  • Repeat. Think of repetition as way to organize our large, complex narrative for consistency. When a topic like analysis paralysis is consistent, it appears to be linked across sections, and evaluators perceive our sections as cohesive. By being cohesive, we give important topics such as analysis paralysis and its relevant supporting details significance and meaning, unifying and strengthening our persuasive argument. 
  • Rephrase. Too much repetition, however, and we risk boring or annoying our evaluators. We want to restate topics like analysis paralysis to help evaluators follow along, but find a way to rephrase and repeat without distracting evaluators. For example, rephrasing as paralysis by analysis gives us the opportunity to influence the evaluator from a slightly different angle, ensuring they understand.

The more ways we carefully repeat and thoughtfully rephrase, the more emphatic, and persuasive, our proposal, and the more likely evaluators will absorb and accept our solution at a deeper level.
Next time you read some powerful prose, think about emphatic and persuasive proposal writing. For example, here are some of my favorites:

  • How David Mitchel’s reincarnation focus in Cloud Atlas consistently reminds us of his theme; the universality of human nature despite time and a changing landscape.
  • How J.R.R. Tolkien’s relevant Hobbit details in The Lord of the Rings consistently remind us this is a battle between the simple, modern world and the heroic realm that threatens peace.
  • How Margaret Atwood’s use of repetition and rephrasing in The Handmaid’s Tale, flowers as a symbol of fertility, consistently reminds us of the story’s key theme; the fertility most women lack in Gilead
Writing proposals collaboratively gives us more time to think deeper, analyze further and edit our large, complex narratives down to their essence so that evaluators recognize our respect and passion. Writing emphatically gives our persuasive narrative a construct with context that evaluators understand and absorb. Together our proposals become greater than the sum of their parts, giving evaluators content they can act on.

Related article: How to Make Your Proposal Stand Out: An Easy Trick.

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Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith has 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. She recently joined Xait’s Customer Success team as part of their acquisition of Privia.

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