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Proposal to Report – the Art of Business Writing
31 July 2014

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Propose, Persuade, Promote

These three “Ps” are the reason reports, briefs, white papers, proposals are written, otherwise why bother.

So when we set out to propose, persuade others our proposal is sound and promote the benefits of our proposal, it should be done effectively.  Failure to do so could be costly to the organisation and how you are perceived.

Establish your goal, what is the focus, why are you writing the document?

Recommendations should be stated up front and wherever possible include an alternative or alternatives with the reasons for and against them.  This shows you have given the issue due consideration – you have done your homework.

Know your audience, whether it is one recipient or a hundred – one recipient can often be more crucial, with larger numbers you could have a majority group who could persuade the minority.

Get straight to the point.  The opening paragraph must establish the reason for the document but keep it short.

Sell your idea by using persuasive language but don’t overdo it, the pitch should be subtle.

Business documents should not be written in the first person, they are not personal and personal feelings should be removed from the content.

As always, don’t use jargon or informal expressions and always explain technical terms, unless you are absolutely sure everyone reading the document will understand them.

A lengthy document should also be broken down into subsections with a clearly understood header. This not only makes the document easier to read but for someone doing an initial scan they should have an understanding of the content.

Documents of all lengths will benefit from the use of tables, charts and graphs – particularly when there are a lot of figures involved and colour enhances the experience. Most of us are visual beings and the numerically blessed are in the minority.

Use short sentences.  They are more to the point and easier to comprehend.  With a sentence the length of a paragraph it is all too easy to lose the thread and then you have to start it all over again or give up and move on.  Neither are good outcomes.

According to Richard Nordquist a grammar and composition expert there are also the “four Cs” – clear, concise, considerate, and correct.  Always make sure of the last “C”!  Clear, concise content eliminates waffle and considering your audience, looking at the document from the reader’s point of view will often result in a rewrite.

In the end, if your document is long, provide an executive summary.  State the issue, provide the solution and the benefits.  For those who don’t need to know all the details, they will be truly grateful.