In my many years of reading and writing proposals, I’ve come up with some universal guidelines that apply to virtually all types of proposals:
- Use consistent formatting across the board (fonts, sizes, colors, margin widths, and so forth).
- Use bold headings to make the proposal easy to skim.
- Make sure each paragraph has a topic sentence... again to make it easy to skim. Today’s readers are actually skimmers – a by-product of the ADHD-afflicted world we live in – so I advise my students to write their subheadings first, and then fill in the rest with sentences. After all, 95% of their readers will only read the subheads, until one of those subheads is impressive enough to stop the scanner in their tracks and convince them that it would be worth slowing down and actually reading the rest of the words on the page.
- Avoid font sizes smaller than 11pt.
- Keep the length of each paragraph as consistent as possible and leave ample space in the margins – if there isn’t enough white space, the reader will feel overwhelmed.
- Use a consistent writing style throughout the proposal.
- ALWAYS print the proposal and proofread it in hard copy for grammatical errors, spelling errors, visual inconsistencies, etc. before sending it.
- Finally, convert it to a PDF (to avoid having the proposal look strange if the device your prospect is using to view it lacks one or more fonts featured in your original document)… and then proofread it again to ensure that it looks the way it should.