Proposals are a special kind of persuasive writing. They suggest changes and actions and attempt to convince their readers to follow these suggestions. The characteristics of effect tive persuasive writing are thus important considerations for the writer of a proposal. They often appear in a report format, but can also be presented as letters or memorandums. Typically, proposals suggest ways to solve a problem which exists, to improve a policy or procedure, to answer a question, or to present a benefit from a particular product or service.
They may have been requested, as in the case of a supervisor asking an expert on his staff to propose a new method of accounting for petty cash or a company replying to a "request for proposal" (RFP) from a government agency in hopes of obtaining a contract. Proposals of this sort are termed "solicited proposals." Other proposals (called "unsolicited proposals") are developed at the writer's own initiative in hopes of persuading the reader to act or to accept the proposal's ideas. A sales proposal or a proposal to a university dean advocating changes in campus parking regulations are examples of unsolicited proposals.
While the specific content of proposals will vary, they almost all discuss something happening over a period of time. In other words, most proposals include narration as well as persuasion. For this reason, much of the content of a proposal can be developed in a preparing stage based on the journalistic "5 W's and H" approach.
Typical concerns might include the following:
Why should changes be made?
Why is the change an improvement over what exists now?
What problem needs solving?
What needs to be done to solve it?
What specific changes are involved?
What equipment and personnel will be needed?
Who will be in charge of making these changes?
When will work begin and end?
Where will the changes happen?
How, exactly, do you plan to make these changes?
How much will the changes cost?
How will the changes be financed?
Organization of proposals varies with the specific circumstances and with the arranging strategy you wish to use. But most effective proposals move quickly at the beginning, giving an overview of the problem and the solution without providing specific technical details. This opening is then followed by a more detailed discussion in which you may consider the nature of the problem more precisely, explain what you plan to do to solve the problem, and specify exactly how you plan to accomplish the work you propose to do. A concluding section might establish your qualifications to do the work (if this information seems appropriate), point out the reader benefits that will follow, and encourage action, which may simply mean approval of the proposed project. Headings, subheadings, enumerations, and graphics can help guide readers through proposals as they do for reports, and, like reports, proposals can appear in a variety of formats.