It’s OK to Use Contractions in Your Proposals

When I was in school in the 80’s, formal business writing precluded the use of contractions. When I got my first job, contractions were not permitted there, either. But that makes sense because, after all, everything else was also formal.

The office dress code mandated everyone wore formal business attire; suits, ties, and dresses were the norm. We all looked like we were on our way to a wedding or a funeral. In that formal environment, no one dared end a sentence with a preposition or use a contraction. We would have been labeled counter-culture hippies.

Over time, all of that changed. First, formal dress codes gave way to casual Fridays. Then casual Fridays gave way to casual every day. Our dress was becoming more relaxed and casual, and over time, our language and our writing relaxed along with it. And as it did, the use of contractions became permissible.

In today’s relatively informal business environment, not using contractions seems as awkward as using contractions would have seemed back when everything else was formal.

The message is this; it’s OK to use contractions in your writing. Just make sure you know the difference between it’s and its.

David Seibert is a professional salesperson and consultant for businesses that respond to formal procurements in non-federal markets. Dave publishes a comprehensive curriculum of online, self-paced proposal training classes, delivers onsite and online proposal training programs for dedicated proposal teams, and provides proposal and business development consulting services for businesses that want to improve their win rates. 

Dave is founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, A/E/C firms, schools, and to state and local governments. Dave authored the popular proposal book, Proposal Best Practices, is active with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is a member of the APMP Speakers Bureau. You can contact Dave at [email protected].

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