10 Ways to Improve Your Business Proposal Format

How do I format my Business Proposal? If the Government agency’s Request For Proposal does not provide guidelines, then format your proposal as follows:

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Business Proposal Formatting

Here are ten ways to improve the format of your business proposal.

Request For Proposal Guidelines

Read the proposal guidelines, criteria and application forms several times. Follow the instructions and don’t assume that you can deviate from the Request For Proposal criteria.

Engage the Reader

Provide interesting content and write clearly if you want to make your proposal stand out.

Brevity Rules

Be brief, clear, and specific when answering the requirements. Refine your words until the meaning is clear so the assessors can clearly understand your solution.

Use Transitions

Make sure your ideas flow sequentially and have a logical transition from one paragraph to the next.

Avoid Assumptions

Don’t make assumptions that you can’t stand over. Quote research material and literature to give your document more credibility. But don’t overdo it. Excessive use of statistics can confuse the funding agency. Keep it simple.


Use charts and graphs to clarify how you understand the core problem and how this is reflected in your sale proposal.

Audience Analysis

Keep your target readers in mind and write the proposal based on their needs. Remember you may have more than one reader profile, for example, write the technical sections with consideration to the IT Architect’s needs, but write the Executive Summary with the project stakeholder in mind.

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The worksheets include 130 points you can use to capture demographic date.


Be careful about making judgments or passing comments about customers, target users, or specific ethnic groups in your proposal.

For example, “children who come from single-parent homes” may not seem judgmental to you…but it may be if the assessor is raising a family on his/her own. Use more neutral phrasing.


Avoid cliches and jargon. Nothing irritates grant agencies more than seeing words such as “best in class” and “innovative” in a bid document. If you do use this sales waffle, then back it up with proof that it actually is the best in class.

Otherwise, it smacks of laziness and gives the impression that you’re filling the page for the sake of it.

Use Headings

In the main body of your proposal, avoid writing long pages of unbroken text. Make it more readable by using headings to create separate sections for key topics, such as the Statement of Problem, Project, Activities, and Solution.

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