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I recently reviewed a client’s proposal for public sector funding. The first, most important question, asked for a summary of the project, including that telling phrase, “Why should we give your our money?”.

The client’s first paragraph described the background of the project. The funding organisation already had access to this information, so this was a waste of space and paper. The second paragraph continued to develop upon the background of the project so wasn’t much better. The third paragraph began unpromisingly: ‘Whilst we are aware that…’. This didn’t sound like it was about to summarise the project, and it didn’t. Eventually, in paragraph four, the proposal was outlined. The only reason I kept reading was because the proposer is a client; if I had been the evaluator, I would have given up and marked them down.

So what is my point?

The first three paragraphs were the literary equivalent of the writer clearing their throat before writing something relevant and interesting in the fourth paragraph. This is not an isolated case; I regularly come across this when I am reviewing bids, tender and proposals.

Ineffective writing like this is usually caused due to poor planning and an unwillingness to get straight to the point.

Try this approach to avoid similar mistakes:

  1. Define and explain what you are proposing in one sentence – you can give more detail later
  2. Describe what the reader/client will get if they appoint you (benefits/outcomes)
  3. Show why your proposal matters to them by linking what the client/reader could receive, and how this will help them to achieve their agenda and objectives.

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