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Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar

 Study Questions




Introduction to Writing a Professional Proposal




This introductory page offers a simple, brief summary.  For more, go to "Basics" and to "Sample Papers" by students. If you understand this type of paper already or want to explore it in more depth, you might prefer to read "Advanced Methods."  All five web pages of this chapter are listed in the right-hand column--simply click on the page you want to see. 



A proposal is a professional paper that proposals a new activity or product.  It is not a simple report that describes the activity, nor is it just a report summarizing what is wrong.  Rather, a proposal describes (1) a problem or need (known or unknown), (2) the best way in which it may be solved or satisfied, and (3) specific details--a clear road map--of how to do so.

Examples of proposals abound: in the government sector, for example, where everything new must be documented, especially when money is involved, almost all new activities, new groups, new purchases, etc. must be accounted for by proposals that explain why they are needed.  Most large arts organizations also depend largely or exclusively on the grant proposals they must write and rewrite every few years.  Educational initiatives and endeavors also often are run on grants gained from proposals.  In smaller measures, proposals are the day-to-day lifeblood of some businesses and professional organizations: when a new work project or product is made, a new brochure or speech is produced, or a new branch is opened, often the details and need for it first were developed in a proposal.


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Writer's Goal or Assignment

The Problem

In professional work, businesses and people must make changes and try new methods. However, these changes cannot or should not happen without guided direction. For this reason, someone or some group must make a description of the need or background necessitating the change, and a description of how to go about making the change. Such a description is called a "proposal."

The Assignment 

Propose something new--a real or imaginary project--that should be adopted by the audience. The audience for this proposal is a real or imaginary business, committee, or company head who has the power to accept the proposal.

Discuss (1) the need or background in the business, (2) your solution to the need, (3) the plan, schedule, or budget for solving the need, and (4) the expected outcome or results. Develop these parts with at least three body divisions of at least two paragraphs each. Also, include your credentials somewhere, either in a final short section or in the conclusion.

The proposal also should have an introduction and a conclusion that summarize, should be written in standard essay or business letter form, and may include brief quotations.

If you are writing a paper requiring research, at least one or two body sections should include quotations and/or paraphrases from your sources.  These quotations and/or paraphrases should support your own points, should be  substantial enough in quality and quantity to support what you are saying, and should come from authoritative sources.  Also attach a bibliography appropriate to your field, discipline, or profession.


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Summary/Outline of the Visual Structure

Here is a typical structure or organization for a professional proposal.  More development of this structure is shown in the "Basics" section.

Organization of a Professional Proposal

Unique Title 




(A Brief Abstract, if Needed)


Section 1: Problem, Need, or Background

Section 2: Solution (Proposal)

Section 3: Plan (with Schedule, Budget, and/or Personnel)

Section 4: Results 


(Your Credentials if Needed)




Bibliography [if Needed]

Bitson, A.J. Book. et al.

Jones, D. L. "Chart," et al.

Smith, M. S. "Diagram," et al.

Zamura, R.F. "Personal Interview," et al.


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Focusing Methods

A "focus" in writing helps you at any given moment to concentrate on writing.  Here are several helpful, important focuses people use to develop a professional proposal. 

SUBJECT: If helpful, brainstorm a list of subjects, problems, or needs.  If you already have a single subject and problem, try brainstorming a list of possible solutions.  Choose one carefully.  Will your choice stand up to rigorous inspection by others?  Do you have enough details or examples to support what you are saying, or can you find them easily?  Can you write about your subject fully and logically?  What is the specific method of problem  solving you propose?  Will your audience find your problem and solution appropriate and interesting? 

FIRST & SECOND DRAFTS: Start with one or two methods that work best for you, but develop the others in later drafts.

  1. Free-write: write as much as you can quickly on what you know or have collected about your subject or its parts. 

  2. Gather details: write descriptions or a list of the proofs you have for your materials--facts in the form of charts, lists, or diagrams; as quotations, and/or from reports of people's experiences that can be validated independently.

  3. Write for your audience: visualize it.  What facts and/or ideas is it willing to consider, in what style or tone, and with what kind of organizational presentation?

  4. Organize: make an outline using the structure above or whatever structure your instructor suggests.

  5. Research: if required, mix research of your paper with the above methods to develop a first draft before, during, or after your research. Be sure to use proper citation and documentation for every source, even for charts and diagrams, illustrations/images, and personal-experience anecdotes.

STYLE, TONE, and WRITER'S ROLE: Develop (in early or late drafts) a professional style and tone of efficient, interested, reasoned, fair logic.  In your role as a writer, you should sound business like and positive, and present potential or real problems constructively, discussing how they will be fixed.  

AUTHENTICITY: Be honest and provide as much full disclosure as possible about potential problems and needs; however, do not over-emphasize them nor discuss typical problems that are easily resolved.  It may be useful, even good, to mention at least one or two minor difficulties and how they are resolved; this is authentic in that it allows your readers to see that you have considered problems rather than avoided them. 

Otherwise, present your material with the clear intent to inform fully, realistically, and logically.  Consider your audience's needs and interests in order to serve them properly.  In addition, if possible, develop an interest in the project (if you have not already done so), such that it is a meaningful event in the company to you, even as you maintain a professional attitude about it.   


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Chapter 57. Professional Proposal:







Related Chapters/Pages:

Details & Images

Creating Websites

Leading Writing Groups


 Related Links in

  16. Research Writing

  17. Citation & Documentation

  18. References & Resources

  19. Visual/Multimodal Design

  20. Major/Work Writing


Updated 1 Aug. 2013

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1st through 5th Editions:: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998;, 1998-2012.
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted.
Permission is hereby granted for nonprofit educational copying and use without a written request.
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Click here to contact the author: Richard Jewell.  Questions and suggestions are welcome.