S.P.E.E.D. Writing – 37 Ways to Increase Your Business Writing Productivity


Working in China means more business and less technical writing, especially proposal development, web marketing case studies and white papers. As some friends I hang out with on LinkedIn are also moving into biz writing, I thought I’d add a few tips here.

While there is some overlap with technical writing, it does require a different mindset, for example, to understand the emotional drivers that persuade customers to accept or reject business proposals.

S.P.E.E.D. Writing – 37 Ways to Increase Your Business Writing Productivity

This article on business writing reminds us that our sales, marketing, business, and proposal development does not stand alone. It is part of a larger process that involves planning, research, writing, editing, proofing, submission and acceptance.

This list gives 37 ways to improve your next proposal. Scroll through it and tell me what I missed.

  1. Show that your response is logical and organized
  2. Make the information easy to find. Cross reference against the Request For Proposal
  3. Include a table of contents for proposals over 10 pages in length
  4. Ensure that your Proposal is in compliance with the RFP
  5. Arrange material in order of priority to the reader
  6. Arrange everything in the order that’s most important to the client
  7. Arrange the response in accordance with their requirements
  8. Number pages and sections consecutively; do not re-number each section
  9. Use headings that make sense to your readers. See Audience Analysis template.
  10. Each section title should stresses the main benefits
  11. Each section title should help readers orient themselves
  12. If possible, express the key point of the section in the headline, or immediately after it.
  13. Highlight important points
  14. You can emphasize the most positive points by using bold, underlining, different fonts, spacing, titles, bullets and summaries
  15. Sell the Message.It needs to have an emotional element. This is not a technical document. You need to hit the pain points.
  16. Respond completely. Don’t skip anything.
  17. Answer every question in the RFP. Failure to respond correctly to the RFP may disqualify your proposal. The client put these questions in for a reason, and expect an answer.
  18. Avoid banal headings and titles
  19. Rather than say “Development Section,” say “Ten Ways to Improve Your Processes”
  20. Use action verbs in heads, especially verbs that stress a benefit for the client
  21. Avoid boilerplate
  22. Don’t recycle resumes and corporate profiles from previous proposals; modify them in accordance for the proposal at hand. Using old, tired resumes will be perceived by the reader, and will count against you when they can making the final judgments.
  23. Avoid hype, padding and other self-congratulatory drivel. Remember that the proposal is a legal document that becomes part of the contract if you win
  24. Support your recommendations
  25. By giving specific details and quantifying the benefits whenever possible
  26. Don’t just say that you will comply with a requirement — say how we’ll do so
  27. Don’t attack competitors. Refer to rival products if you must.
  28. Point out the weaknesses of alternative solutions.
  29. Use a strong closing statement
  30. Ask for their business; tell the reader exactly what you want him or her to do
  31. Remind the reader of the benefits of taking action
  32. Avoid business cliché’s
  33. Avoid hackneyed openings and closings that clients have read a thousand times. Avoid “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for considering the enclosed . . .” Get to the point: “Here is your proposal.” Avoid “If you have any questions, please feel free to call.” That closing has been done to death, so avoid it and write something more genuine.
  34. Make your proposal easy to understand
  35. Use the same terms and jargon that appear in the RFP. Don’t try to impress the client with your own special brand of buzzwords or TLA (three-letter acronyms)
  36. Use simple, direct language
  37. Close your business documents on a high note. Don’t be too humble. A little confidence never hurt!

What did I miss?

About the Author: Ivan Walsh is a Beijing-based technical writer who writes Internet Business Proposals. He also shares business writing tips for smart people at Klariti