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7.3: Reports and Proposals

  • Page ID
    15256
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    A business proposal is not just about persuasion. Embedded in any effective proposal is a new way of doing that may demand change and risk. [Image: Benjamin Child | Unsplash]

    Like emails and business letters, reports and proposals are also a regular part of business writing in the work world, and any educated adult should feel at ease with proposing new ideas in writing. As with all effective writing, keep your audience, purpose, and voice at the forefront, and all should go well.
    “One of the most valuable classes I took in college was ‘Business Communication.’ We learned about writing professional emails, memos, and letters. I remember the professor telling us that when they surveyed local employers, business writing was one of the areas that had the most impact. I use the content and skills from that class more in my daily work than some of the subject matter from my major! Effective communication is crucial to what I do and has helped me to establish myself in the workplace.” Megan Janes, Associate Director of Graduate and Adult Degree Admissions

    1. Analyze your audience. If you intend to propose something new, don’t just assume you know your audience; analyze them. Consider their age, location, education, employment, class, race, gender, religion, motivation, and interests. What do they think about, dream about, care about? What can you offer them that they don’t already know about or realize? Why will they listen to you?
    2. Know your purpose. In a sentence, what are you proposing and why? How do you hope your audience will think differently about life after reading your work? How is your purpose unique and essential? How will you teach your audience a new way of thinking?
    3. Articulate a methodology. A business proposal is not just about persuasion. Embedded in any effective proposal is a new way of doing that may demand change and risk. What new methods are you proposing, and how will your audience adopt and apply those new methods? What learning curve do you anticipate, and how will the information be shared in a way that is consistent, uniform, and transformative?
    4. Ponder a solution. What will be the end result? If your audience invests in the changes you are proposing, what can they expect to see and experience? Will a solution be evident immediately, or will it demand time, patience, and endurance?
    5. Consider the competition. Just as an effective argument must weigh opposing arguments, a successful business proposal must weigh the competition. What other options does your audience have, and why is your approach the most logical, meaningful, promising, and inspiring? Are there downfalls about the competition that your audience might not know, and are there benefits that you are asking them to overlook? Why?
    6. Be professional. Platitudes and generalities are not helpful in a business proposal. If you hope to form a relationship built on trust, focus your proposal on the specific qualities that will foster a mutual understanding. How can you ensure your audience that you are knowledgeable and trustworthy?
    7. Be persuasive. What will convince your audience to listen to your ideas? Will you use appeals of reason, emotion, or character? What evidence will you employ to demonstrate the truth of what you are suggesting? What data supports your cause? How will your voice, syntax, and diction aid in persuading your audience? How will the visual and mixed media components of your proposal strengthen your cause? What holes remain in your argument, and what will you do to fill them?
    8. Use a standard format and font. As with a business letter, the general standard is to hold to a basic font and layout: 12 point Times New Roman with 1” margins and clean, easy-to-read paragraphs or lists. What visuals will you include to ensure that your presentation is eye-catching and professional but not sloppy or distracting? Should you purchase software created specifically for business proposals and reports?
    9. Edit carefully. A single error in the simple math of the sentence, paragraph, or essay is enough to destroy the trust you are hoping to build with a potential new partner. How will you ensure that your work is error-free?
    10. Expect a response. Does your writing exude the confidence of someone who expects a positive result? How do you demonstrate to your audience that you are knowledgeable, authoritative, and confident? If you are the best in your field, how does that show in the words you have written in your proposal?

    Exercises:

    Exercise 28.1

    Locate a business proposal you have prepared and consider it in light of each of the following standards. How does it fare?

    1. Analyze your audience.
    2. Know your purpose.
    3. Articulate a methodology.
    4. Ponder a solution.
    5. Consider the competition.
    6. Be professional.
    7. Be persuasive.
    8. Use a standard format and font.
    9. Edit carefully.
    10. Expect a response.

    Exercise 28.2

    Find a business proposal you have received from someone else for a school or work-related situation. Weigh the proposal in light of each of the following standards. How does it fare?

    1. Analyze your audience.
    2. Know your purpose.
    3. Articulate a methodology.
    4. Ponder a solution.
    5. Consider the competition.
    6. Be professional.
    7. Be persuasive.
    8. Use a standard format and font.
    9. Edit carefully.
    10. Expect a response.

    Exercise 28.3

    Consider something you hope to accomplish or change. To whom should you write a business proposal to get a conversation started? Write the proposal according to the standards listed in this chapter.


    7.3: Reports and Proposals is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jennie A. Harrop.

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