I was recently reminded of the benefits of using a stylesheet when I attended an APMP webinar called The Fastest Proposal Editing in the West delivered by Samantha Enslen, CF APMP.
I like to think of a stylesheet as a mini-dictionary and guide for multiple writers to refer to before they put pen to paper. The aim is that they also continue to refer to it – and add to it – throughout the proposal writing process.
Create a template for re-use. I use the following headings:
- Company names – What does the client call themselves? The first time we speak about the client we use their full legal name, and thereafter we use the name they call themselves e.g. The University of Johannesburg becomes UJ.
- Industry terms – e.g. Instead of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, use the JSE.
- Capitalisation – To avoid unnecessary capitalisation, agree on only capitalising proper nouns or industry-accepted terms.
- Language – Please set the language to that in which you’ve agreed to write e.g. South African English.
- Hyphenation – Agree on when we hyphenate words e.g. high-value.
- Bulleted lists – Standardise punctuation in bulleted lists.
- Number use – Remind writers to write out all numbers from zero to ten in full, standardise phone number formats etc.
- Abbreviations – e.g. CVs (not CV’s), BCom, etc.
Using your stylesheet
- Work your way through your template with each new proposal – the earlier the better.
- Agree on content with other proposal stakeholders and get them to collaborate on the content too.
- Remind them it’s there!
- Use Google Docs – or another collaboration tool – as everyone then always has sight of the latest version of the stylesheet.
In my opinion, the greatest benefit of a stylesheet is to save editing time – this when time until the deadline is short, and we are trying to avoid bottlenecks. Another reason to use one is to avoid confusing our clients by eliminating inconsistencies in our writing.
A clearly written, error-free, unambiguous proposal builds trust. Add a value proposition, and why the customer should select you vs your competitor, then you are well on your way to winning.