Ditch those Proposal Cliches

Because words are so important in proposals, proposal professionals should avoid clichés that detract from their prose.  On a recent discussion blog among members of APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals), members listed some their most irritating proposal clichés.

 I will list some favorites along with summaries of the author’s frequently humorous reasons for avoiding them.  There are good reasons not to use clichés if you want to convince evaluators that you are best qualified to execute the contract.

Best of breed

If you are not selling puppies, why claim that you solution is the “best of breed?” The phrase comes from the world of show dogs.

Across the globe

Because the globe is round (unless you are a flat-earther), you go around rather than across it.  Perhaps “worldwide” is a better word to use.


Sports announcers frequently use the word “utilize.”  This is a compelling reason to drop it.


Managers who are “well-seasoned” probably have been consuming too much pepper and nutmeg.

Hit the ground running

Are you training for the Olympics or trying to get a contract?

Leverage, world class, uniquely qualified

These are the kinds of words you write an hour before the deadline.  Quite simply, they are meaningless.

These words and phrases, which could be multiplied forever, are examples of verbosity, a lack of precision, and the inability to discuss topics of substance.  When you write a proposal, you should studiously avoid imprecise language that makes you appear unfocused and inept.  These are the kinds of words that companies frequently use to cover up problems, difficulties, or a lack of qualifications.

Instead, follow these simple rules to avoid using deadening clichés in your proposal prose:

  • Be concise.
  • Write in the active voice.
  • Focus on the customer, not your company.
  • When you make claims, prove them.
  • When you edit, your prose should shrink as you eliminate unnecessary words and phrases that detract from your argument.


1 Comment

  1. John Page
    May 17, 2017

    There are all good points, and the summary at the end is gold. A few others that warrant the “kiss of death” –

    leveraging is particularly dangerous if you can’t describe what you are leveraging. I often see how “we will leverage our experience on project X” without any specifics.

    “proven methodologies” or solutions


    Deep understanding


    One of may favorite examples of hype (maybe not a cliche) is a company that had provided services in “countless countries.” Since the number of countries is, last I checked, under 250, that phrase did not say much about the reader’s ability to count.


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