11 Proposal Writing Tips

Looking for tips to format Business Proposals? These writing guidelines will help with Sales, Grant, Government and Research Proposals.

11 Business Proposal Format Examples

Active Voice

Use the active voice rather than the passive voice.

Both are grammatically correct, but the active voice is simpler, more direct and easier to understand.

It shows who does what. Passive voice highlights what is impacted.

For example, “The Manager will train her staff” is active voice. “The staff will be trained by the Manager” is a passive voice statement.

Avoid Jargon

Another filler to be avoided.

Don’t use industry jargon as most of us are turned off by these terms. It also gives the impression that you were too lazy, tired or bored to write a better sentence.

Pompous Words

Avoid pompous words or phrases that talk down to the reader. For example, instead of utilize, write use. It means the same thing.

Using ‘big words’ to impress the reader usually backfires. Keep your writing simple, to the point and embrace plain language writing techniques.

Confident Language

For example, write, “We expect the project to…” instead of “We hope that the project will…” The first sounds more confident.

Likewise, “Customers may use our applications if” is better when written as “Customer will use your products because.”


As a Proposal Writer, you need to write well. But you’re not writing a novel. Make sure you use the rules of grammar to improve your bid, but break the rules with it helps your Proposal.

Industry Acronyms

Do not use acronyms unless absolutely necessary, and then provide explanations. In formal

Patronizing Tone

Don’t speak to the reader in a patronizing or condescending manner.

This can happen when your Proposal is written by a team. For example, the person who writes the technical section may use a style that jars or offends the Proposal evaluation team.

Sentence Structure

Remember that the evaluation team read bids every day.

Don’t make their life more difficult by writing large blocks of text. Instead, write short sentences that are easy on the eye and provide the necessary information as swiftly as possible. However, not all sentences should be short.

Use long sentences to help transitions, avoid choppiness and improve readability.

Short Lists

If you use lists to break up text, the keep the list short or create two columns to display the information. Avoid making the reader scroll down the page, if possible.

Third Person Pronouns

In Sales Proposals use third person pronouns and be consistent across the proposal.

Writing Style

Be positive. Use a writing style that shares your enthusiasm. Make sure this rings true when you read it and gives the reader the impression that you are competent and capable.

About the Author: Ivan Walsh is a Sales Proposal Consultant who has worked for IBM, Intel and NEC in the US, UK and China. Get his Free Proposal Writing newsletter here.

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Learn more about these Proposal Templates ]

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2010 and has been updated for freshness, quality, and comprehensiveness.