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The Six Deadly Words to Avoid in Proposals

Here are six words you'd better avoid in your proposals. 

1. Best Efforts. Courts have interpreted best efforts to impose a very strict legal obligation, one that goes well beyond a companys normal duty to a client.

Alternative: Reasonable efforts.

2. Ensure. This word may create a binding legal obligation that a client can enforce in court. This word can be particularly dangerous in a T&M project, since it may imply that you are committing to a fixed-price/fixed-time obligation.

Alternatives: Will assist in or will use reasonable efforts to.

3. Guarantee. Using this word essentially amounts to a warranty, and you could be held accountable for it.

Alternative: See No. 2.

4. Partner/Partnership. The word partnership is a legal term meaning, among other things, a relationship in which two parties are liable for each others acts, omissions and debts.

Alternatives: Ally, alliance, or relationship

5. Will meet your needs/requirements. A clients requirements change during the course of a project. For this reason, you should avoid promising that you will meet the clients needs. Courts have held companies liable based on just such promises.

Alternative: Our approach addresses your requirements. Then go on to show how it does.

And Finally   6. Joint/Jointly. These terms may legally imply that a deliverable is a joint work under law; meaning ownership is shared by both parties.

Alternative: Cooperative effort, or cooperatively.

Disclaimer: Information provided is based on our experience, training, and judgment in interpreting the practical application and intent of official guidance and regulations.  It does not represent the official position of any government agency or their representative.