Selection Team members often receive 15+ (sometimes as many as 100!) proposals to evaluate. You want your proposal to stay in their hands as long as possible. If it’s interesting and easy to read, your chance of winning a contract increases.
We AEC technical professionals LOVE to overwrite...and this is a major problem. We subconsciously make sentences longer and more verbose, creating proposals written mainly in the passive voice. Your competitors want you to keep writing in a passive voice because it gives them an advantage.
“Think about it, would you want to hire someone who is active or someone who is passive? The language in your proposal can create either impression…” (Gary Coover)
Stop sabotaging your proposals. It's time to learn the active voice.
Here are simple examples that clearly show the difference between passive and active voices:
Here are three key reasons:
Good news…writing in the active voice will shorten your sentences, making them easier to read and leaving room for much-needed white space and graphics.
Grab your Trapper Keeper and hop in the time machine…we’re going back to elementary school! Here are 4 Steps to Increasing Active Voice in Proposals:
#1: Remind yourself about SUBJECTS, VERBS, and DIRECT OBJECTS.
In the example above,
SUBJECT = the person, place, thing, or idea that is doing something.
VERB = a word used to indicate an action
DIRECT OBJECT (D.O.) = recipients of the verb’s action.
#2: Follow this simple equation for active sentences: the subject comes before the verb.
Active sentence (simple and strong): Our drainage team (SUBJECT) redesigned (VERB) the inlets (D.O).
Passive sentence (weak and mushy): The inlets (D.O.) were redesigned (VERB) by our drainage team (SUBJECT).
Flip the passive sentence to create active voice!
#3: Conduct a simple word search for each of these words before you submit your next proposal draft.
When you find one, you’ve likely found a passive sentence. Work to eliminate these words: are, was, were, has, have, had, be, being, been, would, should, could, may, might, and can.
#4: When you find a passive sentence, fix it. Make it active.
Benefit #1: Your firm now sounds like an active, go-getter type firm to the Selection Team
Writing in the active voice subconsciously conveys to the Selection Team that you:
Benefit #2: You get back time in your proposal schedule
“Boy, I wish we could cut out float time during the proposal schedule. I love being on the critical path! It’s sooo great NOT having time to work on the important details ”…said no proposal writer EVER.
Two books inspired this post:
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