A Placement Student’s Tips for Proposal Writing

Image of placement student Renee Hizon.

Hi I’m Renee, and I’m a Politics and Economics placement student within the Prudential Policy Directorate at the Bank of England!

Given that most of the work I do is confidential, I have decided to write a blog about how to write policies. I have had to write various papers to multiple internal and external stakeholders regarding policy proposals, so I feel like I am able to provide tips for (policy) proposal writing beginners.

I find writing policy proposals really fun now and I would like to share some tips to help others improve their proposal writing. These tips can be used for things such as proposing dissertation topics, ideas for a campaign, and even contributing to the overall financial stability of the UK.

1. Understand your purpose

Obviously, before starting any paper, it is important for you to know what you want to do or change in depth. However, I believe it is more important to understand why you want to execute your ideas.

In order to get your proposals through the door, you need to place heavy emphasis on what your ideas will achieve, whether it be contributing to existing literature or fortifying the safety and soundness of financial firms.

If you do not have a clear purpose for what you are doing, not only will your stakeholders be likely to reject your proposal, but you may also be confused as you don’t understand why your ideas are worth operationalizing.

2. Know your audience

A common criticism I get about my writing is, while my work captures all the necessary details, the tone of my work and the level of detail is not appropriate for my audience.

Stakeholders, especially those very senior, rarely have the time to properly digest the technical and minute details of what you are trying to propose to them. Instead, they are interested in short, high level pieces that easily answers what the issue is, why it is important, and how will we solve it.

That’s not to say the little details are not important – you need to know the in-depth stuff about your proposal as your stakeholders will ask questions that were not necessarily included in your proposal but are still important. However, you should really keep in mind what kind of tone and style your audience would appreciate.

For example, while senior committees would like everything covered in as high a level as possible, pieces that are circulated with working level colleagues should be easily digestible and have a captivating headline that would interest them.

3. Structure

As above, you will need to answer the three questions outlined in your opening paragraphs. This helps emphasise the point you are trying to get across, and your stakeholders will read through the rest of your paper having your purpose in mind.

The next few paragraphs should be outlining further context of your proposals, and likely the high-level technical aspects of the proposals should it be necessary. Keep in mind that any work succeeding your introductory paragraphs should be supporting the purpose of your proposals.

Additionally, make use of headers to separate different topics as it helps with the flow of the overall paper. It’s also advisable to end with what the “next steps” would be following your stakeholders reading your paper (e.g. “if you agree with our proposals, we will escalate this to the next committee”) alongside a short reminder of what the proposals are.

4. Get feedback

Before you submit your work, you should always consult others for feedback. From experience, all of the work I’ve done for the Bank that gets published or escalated to senior committees is always checked by a variety of stakeholders within and outside of my immediate team. Your first draft will be drastically different compared to your final draft – and that’s good. It means it has been thoroughly scrutinized and appropriate for the readers of your proposals.

I have never had a paper that’s perfect from the start and neither have any of my senior colleagues. It’s important to get a second pair of eyes and collaborate with others to ensure your proposals are robust.

I hope this blog has been really helpful to inform how to make your proposal writing better. I wished someone had told me these four tips going into my job, but through constant feedback from my colleagues I learned how to write good policy papers quickly. I’m getting better, but I still have a lot to learn! I’m excited to see where my writing, and now yours too, goes next! 🙂