Proposals

A proposal is a vehicle for regulating and guiding changes. People write proposals because the world is infinitely evolving and shifting, often bringing about new opportunities and unforeseeable problems. People write proposals because, as the old proverb says, “the only constant is change”. Even the most effective systems, the sturdiest structures and the safest connections need to be re-schematized, re-examined and re-constructed to move with the times. Proposals are important mechanisms for managing those changes.

The first question that you, as a writer of a proposal, should ask yourself is, “What components in the current situation have changed recently to create this problem or opportunity?”. As change is the essence of proposals, before you start to develop a proposal it is crucial that you first identify the aspects of change which effected a particular problem or opportunity.

Writing Proposals

Use Succinct Wording

Most business writers have a habit of thoughtlessly using long words to perform simple everyday tasks. Many people tend to feel that it is more courteous or formal to use long words instead of their everyday equivalents e.g. “approximately” instead of “about”. Remember that if you can substitute a shorter word for a longer one, you will have taken an important step towards making your writing clearer and more pleasant to read.

Instead of Why not use
Accordingly So
Advantageous Helpful
Ask the question Ask
At the present time Now
Communicate Write/Speak
Concerning About
Demonstrate Show
Discontinue Stop
During the time that While
Endeavour Try
Evident Clear
Following After
In order that So that
Location Place
Magnitude Size
Instead of Why not use
Manufacture Make
Necessity Need
Permit Let
Prior to Before
Purchase or acquire Buy
Quantify Measure
Regarding About
Remainder Rest
Request Ask
Requirement Need
Subsequent Next
Sufficient Enough
Utilize Use
With regard to About
At a rapid rate Rapidly/quickly

Avoid Wordiness and Redundancy

As George Orwell suggested, “if a word can be cut, cut it”. It is strongly advised that business writers should remove wordy or redundant phrases from their writing whenever possible.

Instead of Why not use
Absolutely complete Complete
Advance plan Plan
A certain amount of Some
A considerable number of Many
At an early date Soon
Basic essentials Basics/essentials
Come to a conclusion Conclude
Come to the realization Realize
During the course of During/while
Estimate approximately Estimate
Few in number Few
Instead of Why not use
For the reason that Because
Give a description of Describe
In view of the fact that Because/since
Past history History
Place an emphasis on Emphasize
Referred to as Called
Terrible tragedy Tragedy
True facts Facts
Try and endeavour Try
Undertake an investigation Investigate
With the exception of Except for

Stress the Benefits, not the Features

In proposal writing, you should always focus on benefits rather than features. Never assume that readers can naturally infer the benefits from the features. Benefits refer to advantages or values that readers (or organizations) can potentially obtain, whereas features refer to characteristics of an object that describe its appearance, components or capabilities. As with most aspects of communication, it never hurts to state the obvious.

Examples

Common Expressions

Current situation/problem

  1. Before describing our plan, we would like to first highlight some of the factors which led to the current problem of water leakage in Cheung Lung Company…
  2. Over the last few years, most of the merchants in Sham Shui Po District have experienced a significant decline in sales. After carrying out an in-depth investigation into the district, it was found out that over 65% of the merchants in this area took in fewer sales this year than last year…
  3. The quality of your services may far outrank that of all your business rivals, but without strategic marketing plans executed professionally, your company is unlikely able to inform and convince the customers of your excellence in the industry. As a marketing firm with more than two decades of professional experience, we can rest assure you that…

Plan of work

  1. In order to provide a continual professional development for all Armstrong’s workers, our company has tailored a learning package which is aimed at raising the self-motivational power of all participants. Implementation of this specific package requires a 6-step procedure which encompasses: 1. Start simple, 2. Keep good company, 3. Keep learning, 4. Stay optimistic, 5. Know yourself and 6. Track your progress…
  2. Resolving the problem of financial stringency requires a plan that allows the company to carry out austerity measures and economic reforms while sustaining its financial flexibility in the quickly evolving Asian market. Our plan will be implemented in three main stages. First, we will…
  3. The best way to maximize the exposure of our company in the market is to set up a Public Relation Plan (PRP) through which latest information about the company and its products can be disseminated to the mass media efficiently and systematically. To establish a PRP, we propose the following 6-step plan:
    1. Lay down clear missions and goals
      [Explanation]
    2. Select appropriate marketing and publicity strategies
      [Explanation]
    3. Target specific groups of audience
      [Explanation]
    4. Utilize major online platforms and/or social media
      [Explanation]

Qualifications and experience

  1. Financial Partners of GXA Hong Kong has been working with individuals for 50 years. Our representatives use their extensive personal and professional experience in all domains of financial planning to help clients pursue their goals. Our representatives hold multiple professional designations and are licensed to sell a diverse range of financial and insurance products…
  2. GXA Hong Kong has worked in every major local industry sector and accomplished a promising track record of completing projects well ahead of deadline and within budget, with minimal disruption to daily facility operations. Since inception, GXA Hong Kong’s project work has consistently been recognized as the top in the industry and honoured with accolades from various (non-)governmental and professional organizations…
  3. Philip Cheung – A seasoned human resources manager with extensive expertise in recruiting high-level information technology professionals; demonstrated skills in organizational development, change management and strategic design of marketing, and recruiting efforts; strong background in management planning, budgeting, staffing and facilities designed to enhance productivity and profitability…

Costs/budgets

  1. The items below offer a summary of our estimated costs for the BUZZ project:
    Items Costs (HK$)
    Management and labour 560,000
    Equipment rental and purchase 101,200
    Hardware and software 230,000
    Materials and services 65,000
    Travel 12,000
    Communications 5,000
    Consultants
    General and administrative expenses
    Pre-profit estimated costs
    Profit or fee
    Taxes
    Total costs XXXXX
The section “current situation/problem” is often the most neglected part of a proposal. Do not assume that readers already understood anything about the current situation/problem. In many cases, a well-written description of the current situation/problem is the difference between success and failure when bidding for a project or seeking funding for research.
1. This section “plan of work” may sometimes be called the Approach, Methodology, Research Programme, Solution, etc.

2. When describing your plan, you are going to tell the readers (a) how the problem should be solved, (b) why the problem should be solved in the way you prescribe and (c) what deliverables or any tangible results of your proposed plan will produce.
The section “qualifications and experience” is (a) to certify to the readers that your team or company has the personnel, experience, expertise and facilities to carry out the plan proposed in the plan section, (b) to prove to the readers that you are uniquely qualified to take on the job and (c) to build your readers’ sense of faith in you and your abilities.
The section “costs/budgets” is the most important part of any proposal. Make sure that your proposal budget is sound and defensible. An unsound budget is one of the primary reasons why a proposal is rejected. Another problem is that if the budget does not anticipate all the costs for the project, the bidder (i.e. you) will usually swallow the cost overruns. It is always an awful experience