Jargon in Proposals

If you’re writing a book or magazine article, the generally accepted approach is to define a word or a term one time, and then you’re free to use it throughout the rest of the document. It’s a good approach because people typically read books and magazine articles sequentially, from beginning to end.

Proposals are different.

People don’t usually read proposals sequentially. Many or even most read a proposal like they do a Web page; they bounce from here to there, back to here, and then off to something else. If you define a term in the first section of your proposal, and then use the same term throughout your proposal, all those people who do not read your proposal sequentially will not understand the meaning of the term.

Therefore, while it is OK to use jargon, it is necessary to define each term and word at the beginning of each section where it’s used—or more often if it makes sense. I’d rather risk repeating myself than making a really good argument that influences no one because I’m using words and terms they don’t understand.

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 David.Seibert@ProposalBestPractices.com.

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