Better RFP Responses & Management
Where’s That Dagnabbed Fork?

Where’s That Dagnabbed Fork?

What’s the point of sorting the silverware when you empty the dishwasher–
why not simply put all of it in the drawer in a random order,
and then pick out the cutlery you need when you need it?
It’s the same amount of sorting, after all.
Seth’s Blog

Oh, look, another typo. And here’s a verb that doesn’t agree with its subject.

Wow. Is that the best way to present that example?

Wait a minute. This doesn’t follow the order of the RFP questions.

What’s this Quality Plan? I think I’ve seen a reference to a Quality Management Plan: Is that the same thing?

Boy, this section is tough to read. Does it need to be reorganized? Broken into smaller paragraphs? Simpler sentences? Bullets?

I think it’s been three pages since I saw a heading/graphic. I’m starting to glaze over.

Oops, this section is about 20% over its page limit. Before I start cutting, what can I shorten?

Oh, and by the way, this section doesn’t actually answer the question.

Welcome to a proposal editor’s day: a scattered mess of what Seth calls mode switching.

We intuitively understand the reason.
If you take a minute to sort the forks, knives and spoons all at once,
you won’t have to spend ten seconds
every single time you want to find a fork.

With never enough time, with always looming deadlines, the understandable editorial impulse is to try to fix everything at once. Grammar. Compliance. Completeness. Marketing. Readability. Length. Consistency. Responsiveness. And repeat, in any order.

The cost of changing gears is higher than we give it credit for.
The web has persuaded us that everything is miscellaneous,
that sorting things carefully and keeping them where they belong
is a waste of time–
because we can simply find them when we need them.

Yes, there is a cost to changing gears — to switching modes. For me, that manifests in two ways:

  • I stop reading for sense and compliance and responsiveness and marketing impact (my highest value-added activities) and only fix the grammar and typos.
  • I finish the day exhausted.

But switching to ‘find mode’ breaks our rhythm
and eliminates the useful serendipity that happens
when the right things are near each other,
right where we expect them to be.

It might be counterintuitive, but it’s true: compared to one comprehensive (aka scattered) pass, multiple focused editing passes are faster. In an environment where Schedule is King, that would be enough, wouldn’t it? But it’s also easier. And it gives better results.

And if it’s true in editing, for what other proposal activities is it also true?



  1. Jim Taylor

    Ah, but there’s a second step to this process: when you sort things, remember where you filed them. That’s not problem with cutlery; it is (or can be) a problem with data. Currently, I cannot find any of the papers and documents related to Joan’s death. I sorted them; I gathered them together; I even shredded the unnecessary documents. But now I can’t find where I put them.

    Jim T

    A week late reading this set of mailings. Sorry.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim – Funny/not funny. I’ve now firmly entered the stage of losing things both physical and virtual – eyeglasses and photographs being the two of most significance.

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