40 Tips to Increase Your Business Writing Productivity

37 Tips to Boost Your Business Writing Productivity
Working in China means more business writing and less technical writing, especially proposal development, web marketing case studies and white papers. As a few of the folks I hang out with on LinkedIn are also moving into business writing, I thought I’d add a few tips for business writing. While there is some overlap with technical writing, it does require a different mindset, for example, to understand the emotional drivers that persuade customers to accept or reject business proposals.

40 Tips to Increase Your Business Writing Productivity

This article on business writing reminds us that our sales, marketing, business, and proposal development does not stand alone.
This list gives 37 ways to improve your next proposal. Scroll through it and tell me what I missed.

  1. Show that your response is logical and organized
  2. Make the information easy to find. Cross reference against the Request For Proposal
  3. Include a table of contents for proposals over 10 pages in length
  4. Show that your response is logical and organized.
  5. Make the information easy to find. Cross reference against the Request For Proposal
  6. Include a table of contents for proposals over 10 pages in length
  7. Ensure that your Proposal is in compliance with the RFP
  8. Arrange material in order of priority to the reader
  9. Arrange everything in the order that’s most important to the client
  10. Arrange the response in accordance with their requirements
  11. Number pages and sections consecutively; do not re-number each section
  12. Use headings that make sense to your readers. See Audience Analysis template.
  13. Each section title should stresses the main benefits
  14. Each section title should help readers orient themselves
  15. If possible, express the key point of the section in the headline, or immediately after it.
  16. Highlight important points
  17. You can emphasize the most positive points by using bold, underlining, different fonts, spacing, titles, bullets and summaries
  18. Sell the Message.It needs to have an emotional element. This is not a technical document. You need to hit the pain points.
  19. Respond completely. Don’t skip anything.
  20. Answer every question in the RFP. Failure to respond correctly to the RFP may disqualify your proposal. The client put these questions in for a reason, and expect an answer.
  21. Avoid banal headings and titles
  22. Rather than say “Development Section,” say “Ten Ways to Improve Your Processes”
  23. Use action verbs in heads, especially verbs that stress a benefit for the client
  24. Avoid boilerplate
  25. Don’t recycle resumes and corporate profiles from previous proposals; modify them in accordance for the proposal at hand. Using old, tired resumes will be perceived by the reader, and will count against you when they can making the final judgments.
  26. Avoid hype, padding and other self-congratulatory drivel. Remember that the proposal is a legal document that becomes part of the contract if you win
  27. Support your recommendations
  28. By giving specific details and quantifying the benefits whenever possible
  29. Don’t just say that you will comply with a requirement — say how we’ll do so
  30. Don’t attack competitors. Refer to rival products if you must.
  31. Point out the weaknesses of alternative solutions.
  32. Use a strong closing statement
  33. Ask for their business; tell the reader exactly what you want him or her to do
  34. Remind the reader of the benefits of taking action
  35. Avoid business cliché’s
  36. Avoid hackneyed openings and closings that clients have read a thousand times. Avoid “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for considering the enclosed . . .” Get to the point: “Here is your proposal.” Avoid “If you have any questions, please feel free to call.” That closing has been done to death, so avoid it and write something more genuine.
  37. Make your proposal easy to understand
  38. Use the same terms and jargon that appear in the RFP. Don’t try to impress the client with your own special brand of buzzwords or TLA (three-letter acronyms)
  39. Use simple, direct language
  40. Close your business documents on a high note. Don’t be too humble. A little confidence never hurt!

8 thoughts on “40 Tips to Increase Your Business Writing Productivity”

  1. Hi Ivan,
    How do you reduce the word count on long documents, esp proposals. I always seem to overwrite.

    1. Hi Timothy,

      One thing I do is read it aloud or at least the main passages. Parts that don’t ring true I print out and try to improve.

      Also, when I'm tired I tend to write/type more but the quality is less.

      So, boxing clever as it were, I try to write between 8-11 am and do the important stuff then. Email can wait!

      Hope that helps.


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