Over the years I've gathered some notes and reminders for myself about what makes a proposal effective, and I thought it might be useful to dump those out here. This info is mostly geared toward business proposals (pitching to a client, convincing a co-worker, justifying an expenditure, etc.) and other professional uses, but it might be useful for other scenarios too.
Before you start writing, make sure you have a plan for what you're creating:
- Approach: is a formal proposal the right approach for this task, or would the people involved benefit more from a more iterative/collaborative/informal approach?
- Audience: who are you writing the proposal for? What do they already know about the topic? Are they already "on your side" and just need some details worked out, or are you persuading them to change their minds? What other audiences might also see the proposal?
- Goals: the primary purpose of a proposal is to get your audience's approval. Are you clear on what you're trying to get approval for?
- Scope: what does your audience need to hear to give their approval? What kinds of information do they NOT need to hear? What will their reaction be?