3 min read

Create a Proposal Style Guide

Create a Proposal Style Guide

A commercial proposal serves as the initial point of contact with a potential client, offering vital information about your company, outlining the benefits of collaboration, and highlighting what sets you apart from competitors. 

However, you'll likely require various proposals tailored to different target audiences in your business endeavors. While flexibility is critical when adapting to varying reader requirements, it's equally essential that all your proposals maintain a consistent pattern and style. 

This consistency enhances brand recognition, making your business more identifiable. To achieve this, you'll need a proposal style guide. 

In this article, we'll guide you through creating practical proposal style guides and help you avoid common mistakes.

Understanding a Proposal Style Guide

Similar to other style guides, a proposal style guide consists of rules established within a company for crafting and designing proposals. This style book can be a list of requirements or a reference sheet to ensure document uniformity in style. 

These requirements encompass punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations, formatting of numbers, dates, tables, color palettes, and more. To assist technical writers in adhering to these rules, including illustrations like screenshots or photos is advisable.

A comprehensive style guide may also include:

  • Proposal writing examples.
  • Aiding your technical writing team in visualizing the desired outcome.
  • Setting objectives.
  • Avoiding common errors.

The Importance of a Proposal Style Guide

A style guide in your company promotes consistency in proposal writing, resulting in uniformly presented documents. To ensure consistency, encourage your technical writers to consult the style guide during the writing process. This practice ensures adherence to shared rules and standards from the outset.

The adoption of a standard style guide aids in eliminating potential inconsistencies and streamlining the editing process. With an established reference guide, your writing team saves time by not having to address every challenging aspect repeatedly. Instead, they can consult the guide for guidance. 

Additionally, if your team comprises multiple authors, they will follow the same rules and requirements.

Furthermore, a style guide can be invaluable for onboarding new employees, serving as both a reference and training tool until they become proficient enough to format and design documents independently.

Steps to Create Proposal Style Guides

Having a general idea of where to start with a proposal style guide is essential. 

Begin With an Overview of the Guide

Organize the information into visual and written content. Visual aspects include branding elements like color palettes, logos, fonts, and backgrounds. Written content encompasses text and formatting, such as page setup, headings, lists, and the overall tone (e.g., neutral, business-like, or casual).

Formulate Requirements

Define precise requirements for both visual and written elements. This could involve creating a Word document or its equivalent to document these requirements.

Familiarize Your Team

Ensure that all relevant team members have access to the proposal style guide. The responsibility for disseminating this information often falls to the company's knowledge manager, who ensures all staff members know and adhere to the style guide.

Using ClickHelp for Proposal Style Guides

ClickHelp, an online documentation management platform that leverages single sourcing and content reuse, can be a valuable tool for managing proposal style guides. ClickHelp allows you to create a single source document and publish different versions tailored to various audiences. This capability is beneficial when your target audiences have diverse requirements.

ClickHelp's features, such as snippets and variables, enable you to modify documents to display specific text fragments or elements in one publication while hiding them in another. This flexibility accommodates varied target audiences effectively.

Moreover, ClickHelp supports publishing documents in different formats, ensuring accessibility across various devices. This versatility ensures that potential customers can access your documentation regardless of their preferred platform.

ClickHelp simplifies documentation branding with its ready-made templates. Templates facilitate content creation by providing pre-styled and designed documents. Writers can focus on content creation while formatting, including headings, margins, and other aspects, adheres to the style guide.

Proposal Style Guide Templates

Your proposal style guide can include templates to expedite the content creation process. These templates typically comprise pre-designed documents with properly formatted elements. This pre-formatting has headings, margins, page setup, and more, conforming to style guide requirements. Users insert or paste their content into the designated sections, significantly reducing formatting efforts.

Common elements found in proposal style guide templates include

  • Title page, with standardized title placement and additional information such as author names, issuance dates, and revision numbers.
  • Table of contents, essential for document navigability.
  • Body text formatting, specifying font type, size, line spacing, justification, and other parameters.
  • Headings are typically organized by levels (e.g., H1 to H5).
  • Numbering rules.
  • Headers and footers.
  • Margins and borders.
  • Image size requirements and caption text formatting.
  • Quotation styles (if applicable).
  • List styles, including bulleted and numbered lists with specified levels and indentations.
  • Company logos.
  • Page numbering rules.
  • Proposal-specific elements, including contracting activity, customer details, RFP (Request for Proposal) numbers, bidding entity information (for tendering procedures), key personnel titles, and names.

A proposal style guide is crucial in establishing consistent conventions for authors and editors within your company responsible for crafting business proposals. Developing these guidelines early in your project enables streamlined and controlled proposal writing. 

A well-structured style guide ensures your documentation maintains a polished and consistent appearance, enhancing your brand's image. Moreover, consider your style guide integral to your branding strategy. In the long run, it will boost your company's recognition, saving time and resources while increasing efficiency. 

Don't hesitate to invest in developing a comprehensive proposal style guide; it's an investment that pays off.

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