Whether you’re writing business proposals, research proposals, or any other type of proposal, a style guide can help ensure that all team members follow a unified approach. Here are steps to help you write a proposal style guide:
Define Your Audience:
- Determine who will be reading and evaluating your proposals. Consider their level of expertise, interests, and preferences.
Establish a Clear Purpose:
- Clearly outline the purpose of your proposals. Are they meant to persuade, inform, or request funding? Knowing the purpose will influence your writing style.
Select a Writing Style:
- Decide on a writing style that suits your audience and purpose. Common styles include formal, professional, persuasive, or technical.
Create a Style Manual:
- Develop a comprehensive manual that outlines your preferred writing style and formatting guidelines. This manual should serve as a reference for all proposal writers. Include the following elements:
- Typography: Specify fonts, font sizes, line spacing, and margins.
- Grammar and Punctuation: Provide guidelines for correct grammar usage, punctuation rules, and consistent tense.
- Terminology: Create a list of industry-specific terms and their definitions or preferred usage.
- Voice and Tone: Describe the tone you want to convey (e.g., confident, objective, enthusiastic) and provide examples.
- Formatting: Define how headings, subheadings, lists, tables, and figures should be formatted.
- Citation Style: Specify a citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) for referencing sources.
- Writing Guidelines: Offer tips on clear and concise writing, active voice, and avoiding jargon.
- Visual Elements: Describe how to incorporate visuals like charts, graphs, and images and specify their placement and labeling.
- Proposal Structure: Outline the preferred structure for proposals (e.g., executive summary, introduction, methodology, budget, conclusion).
- Inclusivity: Encourage inclusive language and sensitivity to diverse audiences.
- Include examples of properly formatted documents, sentences, and paragraphs to illustrate your style guide’s principles.
Review and Test:
- Share the style guide with your team and gather feedback. Ensure that it is clear and practical to follow.
Revise and Finalize:
- Based on the feedback received, revise and refine the style guide until it meets the needs of your team and aligns with your organization’s goals.
Distribute and Train:
- Circulate the finalized style guide to all relevant team members. Conduct training sessions or workshops to ensure everyone understands and can implement the guidelines effectively.
Maintain and Update:
- Proposals and styles evolve, so it’s crucial to periodically review and update your style guide to keep it current and relevant.
- Encourage team members to adhere to the style guide consistently. Implement a review process to ensure proposals align with the established guidelines.
Creating a proposal style guide helps streamline the proposal writing process, maintain consistency, and enhance the overall quality of your documents. It is an essential tool for any organization that frequently produces proposals.