Proposal Activities

antecendents & outcomes[Return to the Workshop Agenda.]


  1. To increase your awareness of linguistic and visual cues in workplace documents.
  2. To recognize the connection between cues and outcomes in proposals.
  3. To increase your understanding of content and organizational structure cues in successful business proposals.

Class Discussion Activities (30 minutes)

1. Consider this short sample proposal.

2. Answer the following questions (links take you to video-tutorials):

About the rhetorical context of this document (PurposeAudience):

  • Who is the writer? What is his/her organizational role?
  • What’s the bottom-line message?
  • What is the relationship of the audience to the writer (power difference, value difference, social distance)?
  • What is the relationship of the audience to the message (knowledge level, sensitivity)?
  • What are the ideal reader consequences after this document is delivered?
  • What are the ideal writer consequences after this document is delivered?

About the effectiveness of the content of the message for this rhetorical context (Informative ProsePersuasive ProseGraphics):

  • Does the writer provide enough and the right kind of information (defining, describing, giving examples, comparing/contrasting, classifying, using outside sources)?
  • Does the writer provide evidence and interpretation for any claims?
  • Does the writer use graphics to enhance comprehension, usability, or feelings?
  • Does the writer use graphics that meet the audience’s need (to see surface detail = photograph; to see percentages of a whole = pie chart; to see steps in a process = flow chart, etc.)?
  • Do graphics use accurate and consistent proportions? Do they include labels, titles, and captions? Does the writer integrate the graphic into the text?

About the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization of content for this rhetorical context (Bottom LineParagraph UnityCohesionTransitions):

  • Where is the bottom-line? Is this placement effective for the audience? Why?
  • What order is the content presented in? Is that order effective for the audience?
  • Do paragraphs have effective topic sentences? Are all sentences in each paragraph clearly related? Are paragraphs relatively short?
  • Do sentences or sections of the message have explicit transitions that guide the audience through the writer’s logic?
  • Does the writer organize to enhance efficiency for reading?

About the effectiveness of the visual impression of the message for this rhetorical context (Format):

  • Is the page layout (margins & other white space, line spacing, justification, color, etc.) effective?
  • Is typography (typeface, size, position, boldface, etc.) used consistently and for emphasis?
  • Are any groups of items presented in a list with characters or numbers to enumerate them?
  • Does the writer create a visual text that enhances efficiency for reading?

About the effectiveness and efficiency of the style for this rhetorical context (Conciseness;VoiceParallelismWord ChoiceTone):

  • Is the style appropriately concise?
  • Does the writer present parallel items in parallel form?
  • Is the style appropriately active or passive?
  • Is the word choice appropriate?
  • Is the level of formality appropriate?
  • Does the writer’s style achieve reader-orientation?
  • Is the level of directness appropriate?
  • Are presuppositions used only when the audience will agree with the writer?

About the effectiveness of the mechanics of the message for this rhetorical context (PunctuationAgreement):

  • Is a written message effective and efficient or should the writer choose another medium?
  • Are there misspellings or typos that will distract the reader from the content of the message?
  • Are there sentence fragments, comma splices, or any other punctuation issues that are likely to distract the reader?
  • Are there any subject-verb disagreement issues that will be distracting?

Individual Activity (5 minutes)

1. Review this table about the typical content and organizational structure for information in proposals (see the original blog post).

Order Move Business Proposal Research Grant Proposal Non-profit Grant Proposal


Establishing the territory


Establishing the gap


Stating the goal


Describing the means


Reporting prior work


Predicting results


Describing intended benefits


Establishing competence


Claiming Importance


Describing the schedule


Describing needed resources

Group Activity (30 minutes)

1. Now read and analyze the document below, comparing it against the table shown above.  Does it have the content and organizational cues for an effective proposal? Why or why not?

2. Is the rhetorical context of this document different from proposals you’ve read or written? How?

3. What visual cues are important to the success of this document? Style cues? Mechanics cues?

Class Discussion Activity (15 minutes)

1. Share your group’s analysis of the Workday white paper.

2. What are the ideal consequences for your MSA proposal? (2015 – MSA Practicum Proposal Guidelines)

3. What overall content/organizational structure will you plan to use?

[Return to the Workshop Agenda.]

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