9 August, 2018
If you’re bidding for a contract or responding to a request for proposals (RFP), it doesn’t matter whether it’s small or large. From research funding in the thousands to infrastructure in the billions, there’s always a great deal at stake. Whether it’s jobs that depend on a contract or research that can alter lives, the outcomes of proposal documents could not be more significant. That’s why it’s crucial that your words make the best impression. Even small typos can make readers question the underlying competence of the proposal team. You can help to make sure that doesn’t happen by checking your document for free with PerfectIt.
Writing a proposal isn’t just about setting a budget. Good proposals demonstrate your understanding of the client, the context, and the requirements. However, even when you’re satisfied with those elements, it’s important to think about the words you’ve written and how they present your ideas. Spelling and grammar may seem like trivial concerns, but the truth is that the way you write makes a difference. Just a single typo can sink an entire bid that may have taken days or months to work on. Running spell check is a good start. But did you know that there are lots of other mistakes, such as inconsistencies, that can slip past spelling and grammar checkers? Here are six things to look for.
Seriously. You might dismiss it, but this is an easy mistake to make. Just one character can make a difference. For example, a proposal to DfT must not be written “DFT” or it will change how your entire proposal is looked at. Check it. Then check it again. Then search for every possible wrong variation that you can think of.
Proposals are often assembled by a team. However, good proposals should read as if there is only one author. So everyone in the team needs to write in the same style. The key to doing that effectively is your house style manual. So it’s important to apply the preferences from your style manual to every part of the proposal. Skimming the manual once and expecting to remember it years later is not going to work! You need to actively use it.
Most proposals are filled with TLAs (three letter abbreviations). But if you don’t define what an abbreviation means in the text, will your reader understand? Remember that even if you’re bidding in a technical or scientific area, your reader may not have the background that you do. They may specialize in procurement and may find a document strewn with undefined abbreviations to be frustrating and difficult to read. Make sure you define every abbreviation and include a glossary or table of abbreviations so your words are accessible to everyone.
Some authors use Word’s automatic numbering; others don’t. That can be a challenge in a proposal with tables and numbering each contributed by a different team member. All it takes is one table or figure to be inserted out of order, and the labelling can become nonsensical with textual references pointing to the wrong item. Getting the order wrong can be even worse. Make sure that Table 3 never appears before Table 2!
If you hyphenate or capitalize a word then you must be consistent. Unfortunately, consistency errors are difficult to find, especially because multiple readthroughs can make you overly familiar with your own text. Yet when readers see them, it gives a negative impression of the rest of your document. Take careful note of trademark names (especially in proposals relating to pharmaceuticals or medicine); and watch for words like "University", "Chapter”, "Board" and "Project" which are among the most frequent to end up in lowercase in some places but capitals in others.
Proposals use headings and subheadings to make information clear to readers. But how can you be sure that capitalization is consistent? Three common distinctions for capitalization of titles are:
No matter which style you choose, it’s critical that your proposal is consistent in its use. Titles are designed to stand out from the text, so any inconsistency in them will stand out to your reader.
The problem with checking hyphenation, capitalization, titles, tables, abbreviations and house style is that it’s time-consuming and prone to error. If you’re doing it manually, each hyphenated and capitalized phrase needs to be checked. Each abbreviation, each table and each title must be considered separately. Finding every error may take multiple readthroughs and it may involve flipping back and forth to each use of a phrase to confirm consistency. That’s especially challenging on proposals because deadlines are usually tight. Can you imagine how much faster you could work with software that checks these errors for you so that you can focus on the substance of the proposal? That’s exactly what PerfectIt does.
PerfectIt scans an entire document in seconds. It compares every hyphenated phrase to every non-hyphenated phrase, every capitalized word to every lowercase word, and every heading to every other heading. Then it presents them in an easy-to-use screen so you can review and fix each possible error. It’s the fastest and most accurate way to find inconsistencies. PerfectIt even checks every abbreviation, and it can automatically generate a table of abbreviations in seconds so that your proposal is clearer and easier for readers to understand. You can also customize PerfectIt to check your house style preferences and the correct presentation of your customer’s name.
Proposals only need to be checked once. And a fully functioning version of PerfectIt is free for 14 days. So after you've proofread your proposal, you can run PerfectIt on it for free. It’s easy to use, it works on Mac or PC, and there’s no training or credit card required. With so much at stake, and no cost for using it once, it makes sense to do everything you can to make sure your proposal is presented correctly with no typos of any kind.
We offer the free trial because we know PerfectIt will help your proposal succeed. When it comes time for your next proposal, we hope you’ll consider buying. Click to start checking your proposal for free and get PerfectIt now.