Writing a Short Proposal

The Basics

A proposal is a document that gives details of an offer to carry out a project.

There are internal and external proposals.

An internal proposal is an offer or suggestion of a project that you would like to do for the company that you work for. For example, Steve works for a large media organisation as a special affairs correspondent. He comes up with an idea to travel to China to report on their social credit system. Steve needs to write a proposal for his idea, so that it can be discussed by the management.

An external proposal is an offer to do work for another company or a government body. Proposals are often requested by companies through RFPs (requests for proposals). For example, MegaCorp is looking for a company that can repaint their office tower. They put out an RFP, hoping they will receive at least three proposals. Then, their management will choose the best proposal and hire the company to do the job.

We are going to learn how to write a simple internal proposal with three main sections:

These three sections will have the following sub-sections or structure:




Our Example

In our example, a maintenance manager for a luxury apartment complex has been asked to submit a proposal to change all the lighting in the building to LED lighting.

Although this is an internal proposal, we could use the same layout for an external proposal, especially since it includes the costing, time needed for the project and manpower needed.

Read through the following short report and do the tasks that follow:

Proposal for LED Lighting in All Common Areas

Submitted November 14, 2021



Currently, all common areas at Bettencourt Apartments use either conventional bulbs or fluorescent lighting. It is estimated that between 30 – 50 bulbs need to be replaced per month at a cost of between $30 – $70. As well as the financial cost, this represents around 10 man-hours of work per month.

By changing all lighting to LED bulbs, the apartment complex will be able to save money in the long term and expend less labor on changing bulbs.

LED Lighting

LED lighting, while still relatively expensive, has recently come down in price. To change all lighting to LED lighting, there would be an initial high cost which the apartment complex would recover over time.

LED lights last up to five times longer than fluorescent lighting and up to twenty times longer than conventional lighting. It is estimated that, with LED lighting, only 6-10 bulbs would need changing per month, at a cost of $12 – $25. The cost of changing the bulbs would be recouped within two years.

The light emitted by LED bulbs is closer to natural daylight and therefore healthier and easier on the eyes. In office areas, LED lighting has been shown to increase productivity.


This project may be carried out in stages using only in-house personnel.


Stage 1 (Floors 1-5): January, 2022
Stage 2 (Floors 6-10): February, 2022
Stage 3 (Floors 12-15): March, 2022
Stage 4 (Car park and office/communal areas): April, 2022


All work on this project may be carried out by the Maintenance Manager and the Assistant Maintenance Officer. The work is estimated at 10 hours per month.


The estimated cost of the project is as follows:

Fittings/Casings x 100 = $20
LED bulbs type A x 100 = $250
LED bulbs type B x 500 = $1000

Total cost: $1270


Comprehension Task

1 What project does this proposal suggest?
2 The proposal states LED lighting is cheaper in the long term. How long would it take to get back the money spent on this project?
3 Apart from saving money, what are the other benefits of LED lighting?
4 How long is required for the project?
5 How many people would be required to work on this project.


1 Removing the conventional lighting in an apartment complex and replacing it with LED lighting.
2 It would take less than 2 years.
3 You need to replace fewer bulbs each month. The light emitted is healthier. It is said to increase productivity.
4 Four months
5 Only two: the Maintenance Manager and the Assistant Maintenance Officer


Notes on the Sample Proposal:

1 Introduction

First paragraph: The problem is explained: the apartment is spending too much time and money changing light bulbs

Second paragraph: The solution is introduced: Changing to LED bulbs

Solution (heading: LED Lighting)

First paragraph: an explanation that this solution would be expensive in the short term, but would be cheaper in the long term.

Second paragraph: technical information about LED lighting

Third paragraph: the other benefits of LED lighting (on health and productivity)


Schedule: We split the project into stages to give a better idea of how thew work will be carried out


We explain who will carry out the work


We finish the proposal with the costing. For openness, we give the costing of each item. For easy reference we put the final costing at the end of the proposal in bold.

Language of a proposal

The language used in a proposal is very similar to the language used in a report; it should be formal and sound neutral. We should avoid using slang or emotionally charged words, such as ‘fantastic’ or ‘excellent’. We can avoid using ‘I’, ‘we’, ‘me’ or ‘us’ (note these words are not used in the sample proposal above).

If the purpose of a proposal is to get a job from an external company, we should use positive language to describe our solution without sounding like it is a sales pitch.

How would a longer proposal be different?

In a longer proposal, each section would be longer. However, the description of the solution should be much longer than the description of the problem (introduction). Depending on the complexity of the project, the implementation section may also be very long.

Like a long report, a long proposal will have a cover page and a contents page. Smaller charts and tables can go in the main section of the report, but longer charts can go in the appendices.

A long proposal may require supporting documents, such as licenses, company profiles, descriptions of previous work, lists of previous clients, timelines or blueprints.

Proposals for government contracts, in particular, may need to be written in a particular format.

Sample proposal writing tasks

These proposals could be written using the example above as a model.

1 You are the Project Manager for a large apartment complex. All projects require a proposal to be submitted to the management committee. You have been asked to convert one space to a children’s play area. Write a simple proposal for this project. Use your imagination to fill in the details.

2 You are the Project Manager for a large office building. All projects require a proposal to be submitted to the CFO. You would like to install a digitized system for visitors, where they can check in and scan their ID before approaching the reception desk. In addition, there would be touch-screen information kiosks on each floor to assist visitors. Write a simple proposal for this project. Use your imagination to fill in the details.

3 You are the owner of a small gym specialising in martial arts classes. SecureCo, a company that hires out security guards, has approached you to ask about martial arts training for their security personnel (about 50 persons, male and female). They have asked you to give them a proposal for approximately 20 hours of training at “a fair price”. Write a simple proposal for them. Use your imagination to fill in the details.