Proposals 101: Fit Editing

You’ve spent days and weeks addressing all requirements, weaving-in win themes, and solidifying pricing. You get to red team, lift your head, and realize, “Oh man. We’re still over page count and now I need to make this fit without unintentionally cutting any content addressing key requirements!”

Welcome to fit editing

Fit editing happens at the end of the normal editing process and content development cycle. It requires a strategic eye because having to write within page limits—while still addressing all requirements—takes a deep understanding of compliance, message, and editing fundamentals. Since every line counts when you’re fit editing (one page is roughly 26 lines of text in Times New Roman 12 pt. font), you’ll need to go through the entire proposal line-by-line. You don’t want to risk the most important sentence or paragraph getting cut because someone didn’t know it was pivotal to the solution.

Save space and strengthen your response

The following strategies are our tried and true tactics for efficiently and effectively getting within page limits. Fit editing often requires subverting normal editing norms, so we suggest using after you’ve applied all standard editing best practices (namely, always writing in active voice!). Let’s be honest: with fit editing, you don’t have the time or space to do things the “right way.” If we had all the real estate in the world, we’d define all the first acronyms, expand on our themes, and create expansive graphics with lots of white space.

But, when you’re over pages, you need to trim the fat. And quickly.

Don’t squander real estate

When it comes to fit editing, formatting can be your best friend:

  • Bullets may seem like a space saver, but a table or graphic with smaller fonts may be better. If a bullet doesn’t use most of the full width of a page, you may be better off with a serial list to save space. For example, five lines of bullets can be combined in a list that only takes two lines of space (use sparingly so you don’t sacrifice readability).
  • Use graphics wisely and with tight white space. Focus on maximizing the width of the image and reducing the vertical height to save space.
  • If needed, and doesn’t impact the integrity of the response, re-structure content throughout volumes as needed to maximize flow, transitions, and impact.
  • Remove orphan words and dangling sentences by looking within the paragraph to cut that number of words and bring the line up.

Remember, you may only need to delete one or two words to save an entire line of space. Do this a few times and you can save a paragraph or a whole page.

Analyze acronyms

One of the most important fit editing techniques is cutting all repeated acronym definitions and making the decision that if you are providing an acronym list—do you need to spell out the first instance at all? You also want to make sure you’re not spelling out common industry acronyms. For example, if you are responding to a DHS RFP, you probably don’t need to spell out Department of Homeland Security since reviewers will know what DHS stands for.

Cut clichés

Clichés are typically used when we are having a hard time expressing an idea. We see a lot of, “Thank you for the opportunity to present…” Delete! Focus on the solution and the requirements and reviewers and evaluators will be thankful. Replace all set-ups and direct copy and pasting of requirements like, “As stated in…” and replace with a simple compliance reference [SOW 3.1] to ease evaluation.

Remove false subjects

Words like it and there are displace the true subject and can make content more informal. Search, find, cut, or rewrite. For example, you save three words by writing, “D.C. is two hours away,” instead of, “It takes two hours to get to D.C.”

Find the right word…and don’t oversell the same message

Adjectives are rarely needed in proposals. Begin with your value proposition and make sure each word is doing something in the sentence. We tend to use adjectives or repeat words for emphasis…or when we’re not sure of the correct word. Find and replace the “big word” version with the “small word,” reduce jargon, and leverage correct industry-specific spellings and terms. In order to do this, make sure you first understand the context and then research associated words.

Pass on prepositional phrases

Go through your response and remove or reduce all modifiers—“The opinion of the manager” is much longer than, “The manager’s opinion.” That and which can typically be deleted completely from a sentence without changing its meaning.

Get within page limits

Fit editing, like all other types of edits, should start and end with the goal of creating clear, consistent, concise, and compelling content; but with the added imperative of making your solution fit into rigid page limits. The focus is on meeting both needs at the same time—you want to revise content to maximize usage of style, tone, win themes, ideas, and concepts while still meeting page limit requirements. 

Editing content to create compelling and effective narratives can only happen if editors have a deep understanding of your solutions. WinBiz employs highly-specialized experts with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experience from all over the industry and across all state and federal agencies. Every writer on our team has at least 10 years of federal agency editing experience.

What does this mean for you? It means that when you get to Gold Team, or even white glove, and realize you’re over page limits…our experts are here to help you get within page limits quickly and accurately.