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How to Write a Sample Proposal

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In business, writing a proposal is often required to offer solutions to real problems. In her book "Business Communication: Process and Product," Mary Guffey states, “Proposals are persuasive offers to solve problems, provide services, or sell equipment.” While proposal writing often require extensive research and must be done under tight deadlines, breaking the document down to its basic parts can greatly simplify the process and increase the chances of the proposal being met with a favorable response.

Prewriting and Drafting

Know your audience. Conduct research to determine the individuals who make up the chain of command reading the proposal. This will determine how technical the language should be, whether or not a glossary will be needed to define terms, the tone and how much background information about the problem needs to be included.

Conduct research to identify previous attempts to solve the problem and the shortcomings of those efforts. Find out the costs of materials and labor and determine how long it will take from start to finish to complete all phases of implementing the proposed solution.

Use the introduction to identify the problem and its significance. Provide evidence that a problem exists, such as verifiable loss of money, time, or customers. Describe why taking action to solve the problem is needed now. Briefly outline your solution and, based on your research, provide proof that your proposed solution will work.

Provide background about the problem in the body paragraphs, including its causes and previous attempts to solve the problem. Acknowledge alternative solutions, charting or graphing information. According to Robert Adler and Jeanne Elmhorst, editors of “Communicating at Work: Principles for Business and the Professions,” a comparative analysis “is especially useful when the audience is considering an idea that competes with the one you’re advocating.”

Supply reasons the problem needs to be solved and propose your solution and its benefits. Include descriptions of the product or service being recommended and details about how it will solve the problem. Include a schedule outlining the deadlines for each stage of the project.

Report the costs currently being spent and point out how your solution will save money. In the book "The Bedford Guide for College Writers" by X.J Kennedy et al., proposal writers are advised to “estimate of the resources -- money, people, skills, material -- and the time required to implement the solution.”

Conclude with final recommendations and the potential consequences of not taking action as it relates to the organization's goals. Use the conclusion to “persuasively resell your proposal by emphasizing the benefits of your solution, product, or service over any competing ideas,” suggests Gerald Alfred et al., editors of "Handbook of Technical Writing."