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Monday, July 23, 2012

100 words that kill your proposal -- Bob Lohfeld, Boasting Technology

This article is published at a technology website and emphasizes proposal writing. But its advice is worthwhile reading and following in all types of documents.

Lohfield writes:
These inappropriate words and phrases can weaken a proposal, annoy evaluators, and even undermine the bidder’s credibility.
To help you write better proposals, we have compiled a list of the most frequently used words that should be avoided when writing proposals. ...
Our list doesn’t cover every word that should be avoided, and there are certainly exceptions to the usage rules, but our list does provide guidance and suggests alternative words that will strengthen your proposal.
Lohfield's list is available as a Word document at his company website.  Here are the word categories, with some advice and examples:

Crutch words -- used when writers don't understand what to say
  • We understand ...
  • Leverage our experience ...
Boasting words -- these exaggerate or overstate facts, causing loss of
  • state-of-the art
  • best of breed/class
Vague, useless words -- these provide little value to the reader:
  • dedicated to
  • comprehensive
Weak words -- these weaken the biggers' argument and cause doubt in the minds of evaluators
  • We sill strive, try or attempt
  • We are committed
Phrases with hidden verbs -- replace with action verbs
  • came to an agreement
  • held a meeting
Redundant words -- simply to write concisely
  • actual experience 
  • on a monthly basis
Unnecessary qualifiers -- avoid these or if used, substantiate your assertion
  • best
  • exactly
Needlessly long words -- replace with short, simple words
  • ascertain
  • enumerate
Slang words --- use in every day speaking, but not in proposals
  • hit the ground running
  • well-seasoned managers
Legal words -- if used, make sure you intend to comply with the legal definition
  • ensure 
  • guarantee
For much more similar advice, check out Garbl's Concise Writing Guide. This free guide provides alternatives to overstated, pompous words; wordy, bureaucratic phrases; and verbose, sometimes amusing redundant phrases:
You'll also find related advice in the Using Suitable Words section of Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide.

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