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Stop Sabotaging Your Proposals: How to Write In the Active Voice

TODAY’S GOAL: make your proposal text alive and active, rather than passive and mushy.

Selection Team members often receive 15+ (sometimes as many as 100!) proposals to evaluate. You want your proposal to stay in their hands as long as possible. If it’s interesting and easy to read, your chance of winning a contract increases.

We AEC technical professionals LOVE to overwrite...and this is a major problem. We subconsciously make sentences longer and more verbose, creating proposals written mainly in the passive voice. Your competitors want you to keep writing in a passive voice because it gives them an advantage. 

“Think about it, would you want to hire someone who is active or someone who is passive? The language in your proposal can create either impression…” (Gary Coover)


Stop sabotaging your proposals. It's time to learn the active voice.


THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG: what is active voice?

Here are simple examples that...

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Want to Predict an RFQ/RFP Win?

Goodness...wouldn't it be great if we could know ahead of time if we were going to win work with the proposal we just turned in to our local city, county, DOT, water authority, etc.??

Well, we can. 

Or at least we can have a much better idea of our chance of winning based on Lead Indicators.

Ever heard of those?

To define a lead indicator, we also need to define a Lag Indicator. They're two sides of the same coin.

According to, "Lag indicators are typically "output" oriented, easy to measure but hard to improve or influence while lead indicators are typically input oriented, hard to measure and easy to influence."

Let's give some quick examples.

A very clear lag indicator is the posted contract awards by an entity. You find out after submitting that you either got a contract...or didn't.

Lag indicators will not tell us ahead of time if we have a good chance of winning a contract.

What do you think a lead indicator is for an RFQ/RFP win? I suggest we look...

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