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#Fact: Proposal Readers Don’t Want Suspense

3 Comments on #Fact: Proposal Readers Don’t Want Suspense

The Psycho House by Steve on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licenseIf you want a positive response to your proposal, be up front with the key information. Don’t keep your readers in suspense, waiting for the details.

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) article “Don’t Make Your Innovation Proposal into a Hitchcock Movie” explains that readers don’t like to wait for the details in a proposal. Suspense works well, the author Scott Anthony argues, for movies like Hitchcock’s Psycho, but proposal readers want the key information right way. Anthony explains, “You simply cannot leave them waiting and wondering about what you want to do and what you need.”

Audience awareness can make or break your proposal. Your document has to give readers what they want and need. “The One Unbreakable Rule in Business Writing,” according to Harvard Business Review’s Tucker Max, is that your document “has to be about the reader, not about you.” Read the article for three questions that will help you make sure you meet your reader’s expectations.



Photo credit: The Psycho House by Steve on Flickr, used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license




What I think is the most important piece of information is Tucker Max stating the document is “to be about the reader not you”. That kind of writing is so difficult to do because it goes against what we have been taught about English since grade school.When writing a proposal, you must use your empathy to guide you. If you were in the perspective of the investor what underlying facts would you need to hear?

Hi, Paul,

I agree that grade school English class might not prepare students for persuasive writing as well as it could. When writing proposals, the writer is, for all intents and purposes, selling the reader business. The reader is the customer, and the customer’s needs are a foremost consideration when selling to them. I would argue the adage, “the customer is always right” also applies in this case. Knowing the reader and what they expect is the best way to creating a successful proposal.

I think people can sometimes get wrapped up in their excitement over their proposal and their hope for approval that they forget the entire purpose of the proposal in the first place. Persuasion is a hard skill to master sometimes. At some points, people lean towards vague explanations in the beginning in order to keep the audience interested and make sure that they listen attentively for the punchline. However, with proposals, the whole point is to make your audience realize from the beginning that you are the best person to get the job done. If anything, the proposal is meant to help the writer get a customer while influencing the customer into seeing why the writer is the best option. If one creates a proposal and visualizes his or herself in the audience’s seat, it may make it easier to remember that project transparency is the best course of action.

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