The Cost of Bad Writing – Why Readability Analysis Saves Money

Fergal McGovern

CEO & Founder

2 min read
The Cost of Bad Proposal Writing

I read a blog post recently that itemized the cost of poor writing. I like it because it quantifies the real cost of proposal writing in dollar ($) terms. No soft measures, just simple time and money.

This quote struck me:

“If the executive requires revisions in half of the materials, the cost increases to $15,660 (from $10,400) per year. Multiply these costs by the number of executives in your company to determine the total reading cost.”

Now, consider this in the context of proposal development. As a proposal manager or writer, how much:

  • time do you spend editing proposal content from SMEs (Subject Matter Experts)?
  • of your B&P (Bid and Proposal) dollars do you waste on fixing up complex writing?
  • time editing a proposal to get it in a single voice?
  • time simplifying overly complex sentences, restructuring and shortening whole paragraphs, removing passive voice?

If you look at your content and you have to re-read it, then you know the reviewer will have a hard time too. The value prop will likely be unclear. You may even have a hard time determining if you are compliant due to an obscured message. If you’re at the ‘red team‘ stage looking at the complex text, it’s probably too late to fix it. That’s a bad place to be.

So, wouldn’t it be great to have very tightly written documents prior to the red-team phase? And save review and editing time.

Well, one of our largest customers is using automated scans to do exactly that. They run automated readability analysis on draft docs as part of their color team process. What’s more, they have measured the cost benefits.

So, what are the actual cost savings?

The following analysis relates to a single program. I have redacted any sensitive detail. The money values are real. We received it just last week:

VisibleThread Saved $5,325 in [XXX Proposal] B&P

Without VisibleThread, it would have taken us 87 hours to manually analyze the readability, consistency, quality and compliance of the proposal documents.

The net savings were 71 hours

They continued:

Because of VisibleThread, the proposal center was also able to analyze the readability, consistency, quality, and compliance of documents we would not have had time to analyze manually. Here is how they use VisibleThread as part of their process:

  • During the proposal development process, we conduct multiple Visible Thread scans on section write-ups and proposal volumes
  • We immediately generate and share detailed feedback reports on individual documents with the appropriate Volume Lead for review and dissemination to the author
  • The author then revises his/her content in accordance with the problems identified in the report, making it more readable, consistent, compliant, and easier to evaluate

If you are handling a reasonable flow of proposals, then the overall cost savings for a full year are very material. For instance, let’s say you submit 40 proposals (of this type) a year, the cost savings would be $213k/annum.

So as you see, investing in readability scanning is definitely something to think about.


Running periodic readability scans against the content yields two benefits:

  1. Efficiency gains – since you can scan an early stage draft response in minutes and generate a report detailing required fixes, you avert the back and forth normally associated with pink and red team. In the context of the above customer, this was over $5,000 for 1 program
  2. Increased compliance and pWin (probability of win) – since you force a tighter and clearer message, your value prop is easier to understand. Your differentiation is also clearer and you will likely be more compliant.

VT Writer For Bid Centers

Increase pWIN by improving the readability of your proposals. Get to know VT Writer.


Book a Demo