Last time we discussed a bit about crutch words, boasting words, vague/useless words and weak/timid words. Are these the “Seven Words You Can’t Say On TV?” Hardly! I dare say there are many more inappropriate words and phrases that weaken a proposal, annoy evaluators and even undermine your credibility. So let’s take another stab at this and look at a few more categories of words you should avoid.

Redundant words

When you have page-limited proposals you must be concise. So when you say you have actual experience, isn’t it just experience or is it fake? When you say advanced planning do you mean planning the planning or are you just planning?

Unnecessary Qualifiers

While these words like absolutely certain and thoroughly or comparatively may have a place in proposals, most writers use them as unnecessary qualifiers. Remove them to be more concise.

Needlessly long words

Write how you would talk to the client. If you don’t use long words in conversation, there’s no need to use them in a proposal. Replace ascertain with learn, encompass with include, enumerate with list, illustrate with show, initiate with start and so on.


Proposals are more formal and may even end up being part of the contract, so write without using slang.  We are hitting the ground running and rolling out the red carpet with seasoned managers... You might say this in conversation and it would be fine, but in a proposal, it just sounds odd.

Now you have to be careful in your proposals that you don’t legally implicate or bind your company with language in your proposal. Some of the words/phrases can be interpreted to have strict legal obligations. The following comes from the website

Best Efforts. Courts have interpreted “best efforts” to impose a very strict legal obligation, one that goes well beyond a company’s normal duty to a client.
Alternative: “Reasonable efforts.”

Ensure. This word may create a binding legal obligation that a client can enforce in court. This word can be particularly dangerous in a T&M project, since it may imply that you are committing to a fixed-price/fixed-time obligation.
Alternatives: “Will assist in” or “will use reasonable efforts to.”

Guarantee. Using this word essentially amounts to a warranty, and you could be held accountable for it.
Alternatives: “Will assist in” or “will use reasonable efforts to.”

Partner/Partnership. The word “partnership” is a legal term meaning, among other things, a relationship in which two parties are liable for each other’s acts, omissions and debts.
Alternatives: “Ally,” “alliance,” or “relationship.”

Will meet your needs/requirements. A client’s requirements change during the course of a project. For this reason, you should avoid promising that you will meet the client’s needs. Courts have held companies liable based on just such promises.
Alternative: “Our approach addresses your requirements.” Then go on to show how it does.

Joint/Jointly. These terms may legally imply that a deliverable is a “joint” work under law, meaning ownership is shared by both parties.
Alternative: “Cooperative” effort, or “cooperatively.”

So now our list has expanded a bit. Forward your favorite words NOT to put into a proposal, or better yet, have your attorney send them and let’s build list we can all use together.