When responding to tenders or writing proposals be clear, concise, truthful and confident.  When it comes to getting the message across, less is more – remember your reader is often reading long proposals from multiple tenderers, so give them a break and make their job a bit easier.

Here’s five quick tips to use as a guide:


If your product or service will do something, say that; avoid using non-decisive words or phrases such as would, could, should be able to, may or might, instead use words such as will, can, does. Be confident when telling your story.

For example:

Wishy-washy Decisive  
We should be able to We can/we do
We would We will
You may You can
It might It does/it can/it will


Avoid over use of what I call “fillers”. When reading proposals, I see a lot of unnecessary use of “that” and “the” as an example – “we will then ensure that all the KPIs* are met in year one” instead of “we will ensure all the KPIs are met in year one”.


Too many apostrophes in the wrong place! Notice I didn’t type “KPI’s” in the point above.  The KPIs do not own anything and no apostrophes are required in the plural form of acronyms.

Apostrophes seem to trip many people up; I recently stumbled across a great Monash University site that explains when and how to use the much-maligned apostrophe.


When you’re using acronyms or initialisms, ensure they’re explained the first time they’re used in the document, especially if they are specific to your industry or organisation.  You won’t always know every decision maker who will be reading the document and if they don’t know what ATP** means, then you’re likely to lose their interest or have them spend hours down an internet rabbit hole looking for the right meaning.  And avoid abbreviations such as Govt or dept and write these in full.


Be factual and provide proof points. If your product will save the customer 20% in the first year, say that and explain how.  Provide proof, for example case studies or customer testimonials.  If you say your product can save a client up to 20%, is that 1% or 19.99%?  If you have benchmarking data or other statistics that prove your case, provide the references.   If you say you’re the only company that does XYZ, be sure that’s true – if the customer knows it’s not, your credibility is shot.


And if you note any grammatical or punctuation errors in my blog – be kind.   Remember if they’re there the reader will pick up on them for sure.  So, where possible get someone to proof read for you.

* Key Performance Indicators (see point 4).

**Association of Tennis Professionals or Average Ticket Price, Available-to-promise, Adenosine triphosphate, Automated theorem proving, Armenia Tree Project ……..

Over to you, what are your top tips for proposal writing?