Bid Writing Tips
In Rework, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier-Hansson tell us to “hire great writers….because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.”
Good writing means being able to say exactly what you mean, accurately and succinctly. You may not have a great writer on your staff and you may not have the budget to hire one, but according to Strunk and White there are a few simple rules to follow that go a long way to cleaning up a writing style.
- Write in a way that comes naturally
We all have our own particular way of doing things, and writing style is no different. Use words and phrases that naturally come to mind as opposed to trying to imitate someone else.
- Write with nouns and verbs
Write with nouns and verbs, rather than with adjectives and adverbs. Combine a noun with a verb and you have a sentence. Voices Carry. Richie runs. Jimmy cycles. Strunk and White say that “the adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.” As for adverbs, well Stephen King has some advice.
“The adverb is not your friend… with adverbs, the writer usually tells us he or she is afraid he/she isn’t expressing himself/herself clearly, that he or she is not getting the point or picture across…I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Adverbs litter submissions that are full of “sales speak.” How many times have you read in a submission something along to the lines of “At Acme Solutions we truly believe that we are the number one supplier of….”
Apart from the sentence being the literary equivalent of an empty calorie – meaningless and a waste of space – is there any need for the word “truly”? No there isn’t. Take out your red pen and put a line through any adverb in your submission. You don’t need them.
- Revise and rewrite
As you write you may be very happy with what is falling out of your pen onto the page, but a quick read afterwards will throw up plenty of errors. That’s no bad thing as revising what you write is part of the process. Don’t let a manager bully you into thinking you’re inadequate just because you didn’t get it right first time. A clear and simple piece of writing will more than likely have been revised several times. Writing and editing are separate tasks.
- Do not overstate
Overstatement, according to Strunk and White, means that “readers will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in their minds because they have lost confidence in your judgement or poise.”
- Avoid fancy words
Nothing will annoy a reader more than the use of fancy and pretentious words. You’re writing so that they person on the other end will understand you. They don’t want to be running across the room to consult the Oxford English Dictionary every two minutes.
Hopefully these bid writing tips will help you clean up your bid writing style the next time you have to tender for a government contract.
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