Business Proposals: Advice from Dr. Jeff PollackWriter's Web
Content by Claudia Brady, Converted for web by Amanda Haislip
(interview transcript here)

General Advice on Writing Business Proposals:

Be Concise

  • Respect your reader's time. Be clear, straightforward and focused in your proposal.
  • Avoid overly "wordy" sentences that complicate simple ideas. For example, eliminate unnecessary words or phrases at the beginning of sentences, such as "In my opinion..." or "The fact of the matter is..." (Writer's Web).
  • If you are using empirical data in your proposal, make sure that it is in an easily readable format, such as a graph or a table.
  • Refer to Lanham's Paramedic Method to learn more about concise writing.

Give a Call to Action

  • Make sure that the reader knows what they must do when they finish reading your proposal. For example, if you would like them to get in touch with you, provide your contact information somewhere in the proposal.

Follow Up

  • Be sure to include a deadline in the conclusion of your proposal so that the reader knows when they should begin performing the action that you requested.
  • If the deadline is approaching and you have not had contact with the reader regarding your proposal, it would be appropriate to follow up to ensure that they received your proposal.

Common Mistakes in Proposals:

Know the Purpose:

  • The purpose of a proposal is to convince the reader to see the world in the way that you do. Be sure to include a persuasive element in your proposal - do not just present facts to your reader.

Know Your Audience:

  • When writing your proposal, ask yourself these questions: Who are you writing this proposal for? An executive? A manager? An employee? A professor? Why did you choose to write your proposal specifically to this person? What can they do with the information that you have given them in your proposal?
  • Tailor your proposal to the needs of your audience.
  • Also consider the possibility of a secondary audience. Once you send your proposal to the intended reader, you are giving them the ability to show the proposal to whomever they choose.

Similarities and Differences to Other Forms of Business Writing:


  • All business writing is based on facts. Whenever you are writing for business, make sure that your claims are backed by evidence (statistics, studies, etc.).
    • Be sure to avoid making any offensive comments or quick generalizations. If you think that a statement in your writing could be controversial, consider whether or not it is essential to your argument. If you believe that it is essential, be sure to provide a significant amount of evidence to support your claim.
  • The information that you provide to your readers in any kind of business writing depends on your audience. Always consider who will be reading your document when you are writing.
  • Business writing should always have a professional tone, regardless of its form.


  • Business proposals have a persuasive element to them, which is not always the case in other forms of business writing. Proposals are intended to persuade the reader to take action.
  • Different kinds of business writing include reports, memos, newsletters, or executive summaries. The intention of these forms of business writing is to convey factual information or summarize recent events.


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