Clear thinking

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Avoiding credibility killers

 June 13, 2017
by Paul Heron

One client calls them “nits.” Whatever your proposal team’s label, we’re talking about the nickel-and-dime errors that can diminish an evaluator’s confidence in your offer. Although the range of these niggling mistakes is endless, five are most common.

1. Spelling mistakes

Don’t put your faith in spell-checkers. Built-in checkers catch about 99% of errors (if we forgive their inability to choose between its and it’s). But a 50-page proposal can easily contain 12,000 to 15,000 words—which means 120 to 150 misspellings could slip through. A checker will happily accept pubic for public—as it famously did in the case of one C2C client.

2. Incorrect numbers

It’s easy to read past incorrect numbers, especially if they are embedded in tables, charts and graphs. Ensure someone familiar with the underlying information reviews numerical information separately from the surrounding narrative. Ensure your proofer checks internal references and paragraph numbering—especially if your authoring program isn’t set to auto-number.

3. Zombies

These are proper names or other bid-specific words carried over in recycled copy. Don’t count on search-and-replace to catch these. Pay special attention to reused graphics. Check to ensure headers and footers have been updated and are consistent.

4. Unintended homonym substitutes

Homonyms are words that sound the same (or close) but have different meanings. Most (but not all) writers know the difference, but they still creep in—sometimes thanks to auto-correct. Some of our favourites: your/you’re, their/they’re, then/than, farther/further, through/threw/thorough, effect/affect, compliment/complement, sail/sale.

5. Contact information errors

It’s easy to transpose digits in an address or to mistype a URL or email address. We recommend copying and pasting this kind of information from a website or email server to reduce the chance of error. And then ask your proofer to re-check. For project references, call or otherwise confirm the information is still current.

Use fresh eyes to proof

Every writer knows the difficulty of seeing errors in copy he or she has recently written or edited. After you review the same page two or three times, it’s nearly impossible to find missing words and other similar defects. Our minds just fill in the blanks.

So find someone with a sharp eye and love of detail to comb through your final draft for credibility killers. We guarantee several will turn up every time.


Need help building strong proposal content?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit


Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





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