Over the years, I’ve scanned through hundreds of document submissions. Some of them completely nailed it. They’re clear, concise and tell me exactly what the guidelines instructed. Others, not so much. These submissions are full of topic specific jargon or unrecognizable acronyms. The submitters have failed to take into consideration not everyone shares their knowledgebase or experience.
It occurred to me this situation is much the same as submitting a novel or a business plan or even a freelance proposal. Is the information you’re providing clear? Are you making the extra effort to briefly explain points or theories most people may not know? It could cost you a book deal or a freelance job.
Are You Showing Me What You Mean or Are You Assuming I Know?
Avoid Undefined Acronyms – Unless the acronyms are common enough to be known and understood by everyone (Example – FYI or CNN), avoid them in your proposal. Best Practice is to spell out the words and put the acronym in parenthesis the first time they are used in a document. Example – Subject Matter Expert (SME)
Don’t List Unexplained Industry Methodologies or Theories – Say you’re submitting a proposal for technical writing to a small business. Will they understand the intricacies of the Systems/ Software Development Lifecycle? Maybe. Maybe not. Giving a very brief summary of the lifecycle not only helps them understand what you mean, but it also shows them you know what you mean.
Don’t Be Lazy – Try not to be vague about your experience or knowledge. It gives the impression you’re skimming over the information, because you have limited knowledge about the subject. I can’t speak for anyone else, but this is a red flag for me.
Be Clear. Be Brief. Be Considerate. Remember – the person reviewing your proposal may just be a gatekeeper. Only the best submissions move onto the next level.