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Trimming Pages from your Proposal without Cutting Proposal Strength

Trimming Pages from your Proposal without Cutting Proposal Strength

Trimming page length doesn't require losing proposal strength

Following some simple guidelines, you can trim several pages from your proposal, fitting it into the page allocation without losing proposal strength

You’re down to the wire, with the deadline for Red Team or worse, hand-off to the production team mere hours away and you’re 20% over page count. You have to cut something, but with your authoring and editing team exhausted, you’re concerned that significant proposal strengths may end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. What to do?

Proposal Editing – Simple Tips for Cutting Pages

The following are some simple ways to cut page count without cutting significant content, increasing the “strength density” of your proposal. We start with trivial changes, building up to ones that take a bit more thought (hopefully your editor will be inspired as page count converges with page allocation). The first few tips may seem a waste of time – how much can you save by trimming an excess space character here or there? You’d be surprised. An extra blank space in just the wrong spot will move a word to the next line,  moving a line to the next page, etc. – a veritable cascade of wasted page space.

  • Verify there’s only a single space between the period at the end of a sentence and the start of the next sentence (easily identified using your word processor’s search function).
  • Remove any occurrence of the word “see” where referencing graphics , e.g. “…(Exhibit 1.2-4)…” rather than “…(see Exhibit 1.2-4)…”
  • Move graphics to the top of their page or column, ensuring text fills prior and current page; in many cases your word processor may have a “widows and orphans” setting that pushes a line to the next page if doing so prevents a single line paragraph at the top of the next page.
  • Make sure you define each acronym once at the start of a major section or volume, and replace any occurrence of the full phrase with the acronym.
  • Edit for efficient phrasing, e.g. “…project goals…” rather than “…the goals of the project…”; you can identify many such by simply searching your document for “of.”
  • Review your graphics and check if adding some text boxes can save a laundry list of brief bullets in the main text; however don’t count on text in graphics (or the graphics themselves) to ensure compliance with RFP requirements, that needs to be done in the main text.

Proposal Editing – Deeper Editing Tips for Cutting Pages

If after all the above you still need to trim some more pages, you’ll need a deeper edit. The main objective of this further work are to identify page-hogging sections for aggressive editing.

  • Look at the table of contents of the volume you’re editing and ask yourself if the length of each section is in balance with its importance in answering RFP requirements or making your case; where a specific section length appears excessive, concentrate trimming efforts there.
  • Review the RFP requirements for the volume you’re editing, and then reread your response; if a paragraph doesn’t respond to a specific RFP requirement, doesn’t showcase your capabilities or win themes (in a way that trimming would degrade), or support a claim you’re making, trim it.

The above are some guidelines that are should lead to 15%-20% page count reduction without reducing the strength of your proposal (indeed, by reducing fluff text you’ll enhance its impact). However, editing a technical proposal is an art more than a science, and as in many things, proper execution is key.

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