Readability for the win! Banish the red pen of shame

We all know how it feels to receive a college essay marked in red pen. It’s a whole other experience to have your professional work treated the same way. That’s why writing for readability is so important in proposal writing.
Claire Mason
2 min read

Collins Aerospace is the largest aerospace industry supplier in the world. It has 150 locations worldwide. A big part of the company’s lifeblood is Requests For Proposals (RFP) development. This involves responding to RFPs with a lot of written content.

Jessica Conrad is a senior proposal manager at Collins Aerospace. She recently spoke at our Users Conference 2019. Her presentation was on the RFP process within the organization.

“Our RFP authors are the engineers. These are our subject matter experts,” she says. Notice that she doesn’t call them writers.

“They’re busy implementing projects. Writing is not what they want to be doing.”

Jessica explains some obstacles within the proposal writing process.

“Engineers are busy. They don’t know where or how to start writing. They have trouble meeting deadlines because they’re so busy. We also end up with multiple ‘voices’ in the writing. This causes our documents to be fragmented.”

She outlines how VisibleThread has solved this and a number of other issues in the proposal writing process for her team. And how the company is now producing winning proposals.

Gamify content and content creation

The VisibleThread solution has added an element of fun to its content creation process.

She uses team workshops to develop their RFPs. Engineers are encouraged to run their work through the online language simplification software. This uses language parameters to improve clarity and readability. It counts and scores elements like jargon, sentence length, and passive voice. It also gives tips on how to improve the text.

Contributors compete with themselves and with each other to improve their proposal writing

“They’ll sit together and work on the language to improve the rating from red to yellow, and yellow to green. We review the VisibleThread parameters and shoot for that,” Jessica says.

This proposal writing process has helped create documents that are clear and succinct and in one voice. Reviewers have an easier time understanding the message since it’s less complex. Scoring content with objective metrics has positive benefits for SMEs too. “This has taken out the human element. It’s an objective system”, explains Jessica.

The process has helped create documents that are correct in their grammar and syntax. Collins Aerospace document also now has one voice. “This has taken out the human element. It’s an objective system,” explains Jessica.

Humans are happier to accept critique from a system than from another human being. “Writers are able to focus on strategy instead of writing,” Jessica says. They no longer feel criticized and meet deadlines. She also says that the time the editing process takes has been halved.

“We’ve had feedback from customers where we’ve submitted several RFPs. Comments since using VisibleThread have been that our copy is easier to understand now,” she says.

The editing process with VisibleThread is less fraught with emotion and has added efficiency explains Jessica. And more wins!


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