18 – Proposals

Language Considerations

Suzan Last and Nicole Hagstrom-Schmidt

Proposals are fundamentally persuasive documents, so paying attention to the rhetorical situation—the relational position of the audience (upward, lateral, downward, or outward communication), the purpose of the proposal, the form, and the tone—is paramount. When drafting and revising your proposal, consider the following tonal elements:

  • Clearly define your purpose and audience before you begin to write.
  • Conduct preliminary research so that you know what you are talking about.
  • Remain positive and constructive: you are seeking to improve a situation rather than critique it.
  • Be solution oriented; don’t blame or dwell on the negative.
  • Make your introduction logical, objective, and empirical; don’t start off sounding like an advertisement or sounding biased; avoid logical fallacies.
  • Use primarily logical and ethical appeals; use emotional appeals sparingly.

As always, adhere to the 7 Cs (for a review, see Chapter 5) by making sure that your writing is

  • Clear and coherent. For maximum clarity, provide a logical overall structure with clear headings and subheadings. Review your document with at least one other reader to ensure that all the content makes sense.
  • Concise and courteous. Don’t annoy your reader with clutter, unnecessary padding, inappropriate tone, or hard-to-read formatting.
  • Concrete and complete. Provide specifics, especially in relation to your sources and methods. Don’t leave out necessary information such as the timeline.
  • Correct. “Correctness” refers not only to mechanical issues such as grammar or spelling but also to proper formatting and the accuracy of information. When writing a proposal, make sure to verify all sources, claims, and any information provided on the RFP. Further review any formatting guidelines, especially if you are completing an internal proposal. Finally, to ensure mechanical accuracy, review your proposal at least twice with two trusted peers or supervisors.

This text was derived from

Last, Suzan, with contributors Candice Neveu and Monika Smith. Technical Writing Essentials: Introduction to Professional Communications in Technical Fields. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 2019. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/technicalwriting/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.




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