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Proposal Writing Made Easy

by Tim North

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Published on this site: January 2004 - See more articles from this month

Writing to persuade is a tough task, but with a bit of planning it can be made easier and more effective.

When you try to persuade someone, often you'll be trying to do one of these three things:

  • Confirm an existing belief;

  • Challenge an existing belief; or

  • Change an existing belief.

In order to be as persuasive as possible, it's important to decide before you begin writing which of these three you're trying to accomplish as they each need different strategies.

Clearly this is a topic that can have a great deal written about it, but here are a few starting points.


If you're trying to confirm a person's beliefs through your writing, don't simply provide them with information; rather, try to validate their beliefs and compliment them on them.

Try to make them feel comfortable, and remove any reason for them to doubt their existing choice. For example, you might say:

I recommend that we continue these environmentally sound procedures.

Words like "sound", "tried and true", "trusted", "fiscally responsible" and "proven" reassure and subtly flatter the reader that their current choices are good ones.


If you're trying to challenge a person's beliefs, you'll try to persuade them to question them. You'll deliberately try to upset the status quo and shake things up a bit. For example:

Our belief that the leach pads are not leaking dangerous contaminants into the groundwater supply may be unfounded. I urgently recommend a research study to investigate this potentially damaging situation.

Here the language is deliberately worrying. Words like "leaking", "dangerous", "contaminants", "unfounded", "urgently" and "damaging" all combine to persuade the reader that the current situation must be investigated.


If you're trying to change a belief (the hardest of the three tasks), you'll have to be especially persuasive as it's human nature for people to resist such changes.

If the reader is to accept your argument for change then it may require him to admit (even if just to himself) that his current beliefs or practices are in error, and many people are deeply reluctant to do this. There are issues of loss of face, humiliation and status involved.

One approach to this problem is to be diplomatic and emphasise how existing practices were sound in the past but now need to change to meet new circumstances. For example:

Our existing security practices were well suited to conditions in the early to mid-nineties. The changes brought about by networking and the rise of the Internet, however, mean that it is now time to change our attitudes. We need to recognise the mission-critical importance of heightened I.T. security.

Note that this appeal is polite and non-threatening. Also it uses inclusive words like "we", not "you". Hopefully, accepting it won't be perceived as losing face.

You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's much applauded range of e-books. FREE SAMPLE CHAPTERS are available, and all books come with a money-back guarantee. www.BetterWritingSkills.com.

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