Writing Readable Proposal Text

Proposal text should be and can be written to be read easily. Does that statement seem obvious to you? Oddly enough, many proposals that come across my desk from companies large and small are far from being easy to read and are often painful to read. It seems that obfuscation and complexity rules the day in the proposal world. Sadly. It doesn’t have to be that way at all.

Here’s a simple but very doable solution to the monotony and dullness that has become your proposal: break up your proposal text with bullet points and numbers. Have you ever read one solid paragraph of text that went on for two or three pages (or more!)? Many of those have been the perfect cure for insomnia in my family. It’s not that the proposal is boring, mind you, but word after word without even a little teensy break is just too much. That one paragraph alone could have (and should have) easily been broken up into six or seven paragraphs with the help of a few bullet points. In fact, from those that I have read, the easiest to read have been those with good graphics, easy to read bullet points, and a smattering of numbered lists in the proposal.

When should you use bullet points and when should you use numbers? Here’s a tip: use numbers if you use a number in the lead-in, the numbers. For instance, “the following are the Top Ten Reasons to use numbers” would be when you would number the list. By the way, people really love Top Ten or Top Three lists, and they make the reading enjoyable.

Secondly, use numbers when you need to put a specific order to something. For example, “use the following four steps to save the entire folder to a DVD” would precede four steps that it takes to save a folder to a DVD. In processes and procedures, numbered points are what makes a good proposal stand out. Don’t shy away from making each of those points clear with subpoints, which should be small letters.

Contrastingly, use bullets when it doesn’t matter what order the list is in or should be in. Bullets in this case break up a lengthy series. Bullets make the text readable (and bearable). You can also use sub-bullets but don’t go too wild on this, and don’t go more than sub-bullets.

It doesn’t take much to make your proposal text clear and easy to read, but it does take a bit of effort to make it happen.