Carrie Stallwitz of Witz!PR, one of our colleagues, passed this list of “100 words that kill your proposals” to me after a discussion about proposals and copywriting. I thought that every firm in the industry could use this advice. The list was compiled by Bob Lohfeld, the CEO and general manager of the Lohfeld Consulting Group Inc, and was originally published in Washington Technology. Lohfeld Consulting Group helps companies respond to all kinds of RFPs (Request For Proposal) and technical bids. Lohfeld says that the list is comprised of words and phrases that bore, anger and potentially negatively impact your evaluations on major projects.
They are words and phrases that you will recognize since many of us have used them our bids and pre-qual packages. Some of us have done it for so long that they just roll onto the screen
when we are in the middle of a long technical proposal. Lohfeld has collected a great list of these “do not use” words and terms. He has placed them into 8 categories.
Crutch words that are equivalent to “hmm” in a conversation and are meant to make the reader think we know what we are talking about when we don’t.
Boasting words like “world class” that are puffery.
Vague, useless words and phrases like “We are pleased to submit…” or “We value our customers”. Those phrases cause the evaluators to skip over the information that follows.
Weak, timid words and phrases such as “We think” or “We feel” or “We assume” are too timid and should be stripped out in favor of true technical writing that says what you are going to do and how.
Redundant words and adjectives that we may think add to our responses but actually divert the reviewer’s eyes from the true content of the response.
Unnecessary qualifiers like “it goes without saying” or “almost certainly” take away from the real thought and could lead to a deduction of points from your response, especially on government bids.
Needlessly long words including “ascertain” or “encompass” should be replaced with “learn” and “include”.
Slang – “We are hitting the ground running…” according to Lohfeld, “sounds ok in a conversation but are too casual for a proposal.”
This is a list that anyone who is tasked with responding to proposals and bids should have close by every day. Thanks to Carrie Stallwitz for passing this information to us. Read Lohfeld’s entire summary of the “100 words” list through the link at the top of this blog, or download a copy of the entire list for yourself below.
Are there any phrases not on the Lohfeld list that particularly drive you crazy? If so, pass them along.