Many proposals sell solutions that are complex and are filled with technical terms. If we combine that complexity with really long sentences, it’s easy for evaluators to lose the point well before they get to the period.
Everyone pays lip service to clear, plain language writing. But how can we help content developers see whether their writing is clear enough?
Here’s a story
Years ago, a friend and avid fiction reader became blind. So he started listening to audio books. When I suggested that being able to get books on tape must be great, his reply was interesting.
“I’m glad they’re available,” Charlie said. “Unfortunately, several authors I enjoyed in print don’t stand up to being read aloud.”
Charlie had identified one of the hallmarks of good writing—the ease with which it flows when read aloud. It’s no surprise that poets, lyricists and scriptwriters, whose output is spoken or sung, are at the top of the heap in the literary world. Those writing for print readership (novelists and journalists, for example) have an easier time of attracting audiences.
Listening tells the tale
Anyone can see how well his or her writing flows by reading it out loud. Ask your content developers to read their output to you. If anyone runs out of breath, or gets lost in the middle of sentences, there’s still work to do.
We’ve tried this exercise with writers (and some copy editors). Several began laughing when they realized just how long winded their writing was.
A clear, plain language proposal makes it easier to appreciate your offering and the value-adds you and your team worked so hard to develop. An evaluator may not think, “Wow, this is great writing”—but he or she will have more energy to engage when facts and ideas are clearly and simply expressed.
So think of Charlie—write proposals that stand up to being read aloud.
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