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Simplicity, clarity and diligence

These tried-and-tested writing techniques will make your tenders attention-grabbers writing tenders. By Robert Ashton

Having a good writing style is important. How can you write in a way that guarantees your
client actually reads what you’ve written?

Clients are like everyone else. They’re busy people with lots on their mind. You want them to sit up, pay attention and say, “Hey, I really like their approach”. If a tender is poorly written then they could lose patience or, worse still, stop reading it altogether.

Here are some tried-and-tested techniques to keep the client’s interest:

  1. Use white space and short paragraphs: plenty of white space will automatically make your tender easier to read. Too much text, a small typeface and not enough line spacing are very hard on the eye and can be very off putting. Neverending blocks of text are a real turn-off. Keep paragraphs short.

  2. Address the client directly, using ‘you’, if appropriate. And definitely refer to ‘we’ when you are talking about your own firm and the details of the work involved in the project. ‘We’ sounds more personal. It also helps build the relationship - e.g. ‘Together, we will.’

  3. Use active language wherever you can. Look at this example: “A procurement schedule will be produced to ensure subcontractors and suppliers are appointed in good time to meet the required deadlines.” This sentence doesn’t tell us who is producing the schedule, who is appointing the subcontractors, or whose deadlines are concerned. Rewrite the sentence to make it active. It will be much simpler and easier to understand: “We will produce a procurement schedule to make sure the project team appoints subcontractors and suppliers in good time to meet your deadlines.”

  4. Keep it short and simple. Here’s an example from a recent office construction tender: “It is our company’s aim that due regard is paid to all health and safety considerations and, prior to project commencement, the necessary safety measures will be ascertained and a construction health and safety plan will be prepared, which will, where practicable, be retained on-site to cover all works.” Instead simply write: “Health and safety is a key priority for us. We always prepare a detailed health and safety plan before starting work on a project. This plan is normally kept on site.” It’s easier to read - without leaving out important information or sounding less professional. Always cut out any redundant words and replace long words and phrases with shorter ones. Clients haven’t got time to wade through waffle. Nor do they want to be bogged down with endless terminology or acronyms.

  5. Keep sentences short. They are much easier to follow.

  6. Never try to convince yourself that grammar, punctuation and spelling do not matter. It is amazing how irritating a misplaced comma or an incorrectly spelt name can be. Typos, poor punctuation and grammatical errors say, ‘These people don’t care enough to check what they’ve written.” They undermine your credibility in seconds. Avoid words ending in ‘-tion’ or ‘-sion’. Use verbs like ‘consider’ and ‘construct’ rather than ‘give consideration to’ and ‘the construction of’. They make sentences shorter and easier to understand.

Robert Ashton is chief executive of Emphasis – business-writing workshops and consultancy services: