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Language use in proposals

In addition to a good structure, the language used in proposals is also of crucial importance. After all, with a proposal, you issue an (extra) business card. In many cases, a proposal is a continuation of a sales or acquisition interview that has taken place earlier. During this conversation, you can get a good idea of the customer or prospect. In fact, the conversation provides tools for drawing up a convincing proposal in the right language. These tools and other tips on language use in proposals are explained below.

Tone in proposals

The tone in a proposal is very important for the way you write and for the words you choose. When the conversation has expired business and formal, a prospect would most likely find familial language in a proposal inappropriate. The other way around (and more often), of course, that also applies. When the conversation has taken place in an informal and warm atmosphere, a proposal with formal language almost certainly deters the prospect or potential customer. In any case, the wrong tone leads to at least doubt and, in some cases, even a rejection.

Contemporary language

Whether you choose a formal or informal style depends on the customer or prospect. However, this is independent of the use of contemporary language. Contemporary language is a requirement for every proposal, in whatever form,. Therefore, replace old-fashioned words and abbreviations with contemporary alternatives.

Professional jargon

Unless it concerns an existing customer who is already used to certain professional terms, the use of professional jargon is not advisable. Professional jargon is about work or subject related matters. Think of medical jargon, legal or technical jargon. When it comes to a prospect or when it is unclear who will assess the proposal, it is wise for sales professionals and other quoting parties to omit professional jargon. After all, it is quite possible that not everyone is aware of these specific terms. It distracts as a result of which one runs the risk that the offer, no matter how sharp the offer, will be rejected.

Active language versus passive language

For most proposals, active language makes proposals more readable, enthusiastic and personal. Active language, contrary to popular belief, is different from composing short sentences. Active sentences, short or long, are always concrete and personal. People also occur in active sentences, which means that the attention of customers or prospects is better retained. Passive language, on the other hand, can sometimes make reading a proposal unnecessarily difficult. When one uses (auxiliary work) words such as', 'have', 'will', 'want' and 'can', one automatically writes in a passive style. It is usually abstract and it often comes across as impersonal or disinterested.

Mind you, not everything about passive language is negative. It is sometimes even better in the following cases:

  • when the subject is (still) unknown (contact will be contacted in a week)
  • when one does not want to take responsibility (this decision has been made to prevent worse)
  • when you want to make some variation in the text

Positive language

Positive language exudes confidence, creates trust and gives the customer or prospect a sense of security. With positive language, people are strong, convincing, which significantly increases the chance of an order or order. Negative and questionable language is unconsciously still used a lot. It comes from uncertainty or fear of appearing too 'pushy'. Negative or questionable language, however, takes all the power out of the proposal.


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