Better RFP Responses & Management
Government-sanctioned Numbering

Government-sanctioned Numbering

RFP article 5.2.A.4.b.ii clearly requires all bidders to use RFP numbering in their responses.  However, this directly contradicts the 14th bullet under Instruction to Bidders II.C.3.d.5.iv.3.z, which allows each bidder to structure their response however they please.


I guess we’ve all seen RFPs with obtuse numbering, ungraspable by the human brain.  Numbered headings are a great way to structure a document, providing strong hints as to where you are now, and to which subjects are related.  But after about three or four numbers in a heading, I lose track.  Additional numbering levels make it worse, not better:

  • Section
  • Section
  • Section

Ack!  And yikes, besides.  At some point, my eyes start to cross.

There’s a reason we learn and repeat our ten-digit phone numbers in bursts: three, three, and then four digits.  And that reason is that we just aren’t that smart: Holding more numbers than that in our heads at one time is, pretty much, not on.

So it is for numbered headings.

But don’t take my word for it.  In Canada, go straight to the source: the former (and not yet renamed as of this posting) PWGSC website on “The Canadian Style,” and I quote:

“Limit the number of levels of headings to three or four;
otherwise the structure of your document
will be cumbersome and complicated.”

Indeed.  And un-understandable.

Of course, if the RFP uses a ten-digit numbering system and requires you to follow it, then follow it.  But where you have a choice, make full use of it.