Top Ten Tips for Writing Tenders

A tender response (to a request for tender, RFT, or request for proposal, RFP, etc) may be part technical and part marketing but it must be 100% professional. That means pitching it at the right level with its language, tone and style. The following ten points you must know to write better tenders that have a chance to win your tender.

1. Focus on being clear

Your style should be non-technical, simple, consistent, concise and clear. Plain English should be used throughout the tender using appropriate technical and management terms only where necessary. Overly complicated writing does not impress, it more often appears pompous. Sophisticated writing makes complex ideas simple to understand by using straightforward language.

2. Use jargon at your peril

Jargon is a form of language used between professional people. When engineers, doctors, lawyers talk to their colleagues they expect them to understand the complex ideas and words they use. However, when you write a document you do not always know the audience. It will be technically assessed by technical people but the final decision will be made by senior people based on its commercial qualities, make sure they can understand it.

3. Minimise use of acronyms

Beware acronyms! In long documents dealing with complex things acronyms offer a way to abbreviate long sentences and avoid repetition when writing tenders. However they can reduce clarity when they are obscure. It is established practice to define or spell out the acronym when it is first used. To improve clarity spell it out when you first use it in each section, or even better don’t use the acronym unless it is a very common one.

4.   Don’t be passive

This is one of the pet hates of professional writers. The passive voice is when actions occur seemingly without an agent, for instance, this blog post was written for its audience to better understand writing tenders. Much more preferable is: I wrote this blogpost so that you could better understand writing tenders. This engages with the reader and identifies the writer.

5. Own the job

You must write the document in a positive and optimistic way. Use declarative rather than conditional verbs—avoid the ‘ifs’, ‘coulds’, ‘mays’ and ‘mights’. This is language of uncertainty and lacks confidence. Instead use “wills”, “cans” and “whens”, for instance, we will undertake the work using our senior professional staff. This is the language of confidence.

6. Use passion, emotion and motivation

Formal writing does not exclude passion. It is important to include your organisation’s motivations and aspirations. Contracting is often about building relationships and partnerships between organisations. Your ability to match the customer’s organisational culture should not be underestimated.

7. Structure for understanding

Complex material must be presented with a strong structure to help the reader understand the material and how it fits together. The document must have clear chapters, sections, sub-sections and paragraphs. Paragraphs must be written properly (intro sentence, explanation sentences, final sentence) and with a clear and logical hierarchy.

8. Don’t rely on numbering systems

Numbering systems are useful to identify chapters, sections and perhaps even sub-sections of the document. However if they are used too much (below a fourth level) they make the document look like a legal document or a contract. This is not desirable because you want to persuade your readers not bore them.

9. Avoid over-capitalisation

This is a particular issue in writing tenders. Professionals often use capitilised words to represent words defined in contracts. This is not necessary or desirable in a tender proposal because it makes the document look like a contract or a legal document (see Point 8 above). It makes it look too formal. Modern usage requires capitalised words for proper nouns and for the first word of headings. Over capitalisation makes the document look technical and the writing look old-fashioned.

10. Use meaningful headings

Your headings help readers to identify the intent of the sections of the tender document. They also allow you to emphasise your key points and to provide clear summaries of your document. I could have called this paragraph Headings which would have been adequate to identify this section but using Use meaningful headings describes and summarises my key point, which helps the reader.

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