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Article Details

Published Date: 21-04-2015
Author: Executive Compass
Category: Top Tips
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A common problem when responding to a PQQ or ITT is following the word count or character stipulations of each question.

Both having too few or too many words can impact the score of your response, and in the worst cases, lose you the contract.

In this blog we look at the issues of word count and what you can do to counter them whilst still producing a strong response.

Not enough words

For many questions it can be a struggle to write enough words, whether the response is fairly simple or you do not have enough relevant information about your company to include. In some cases where past experience is required, your company my not actually have enough previous contracts to fill the response. In these cases it is important to still meet the word limit.

First of all, don’t be worried if you are less than fifty words under, this is perfectly acceptable. It is however, an issue if you are a couple of hundred under.

There are a number of solutions to falling short of the word limit. If the response given is fairly simple and you cannot find where to add words, start by breaking down your answer. What areas can be expanded upon? The key is to add detail, but do not ramble. Ensure everything you include is relevant.

Dissect your response and divide it into sections – which sections are shorter and lacking more detail than the others? This is where you should add information.

For responses requiring past experience where you do not have enough, go through previous contracts and try to find sections that are still relevant. The service may not be the same but there may be a specific aspect that can be applied. For example, did you create any innovations or adapt under pressure? These are the exact things the contracting authority is looking for.

Too many words

The other side of the spectrum is actually more common – having far too many words. In many cases this is more difficult than adding information because everything you included you did so for a reason.

It can also be worrying due to the fact you may lose marks if you omit certain aspects of your response.

The key to cutting down your word count is to thoroughly breakdown your response – separate the absolute necessary information from everything else. It is often the case that you have repeated yourself in order to emphasise a point. When this happens you can remove the repeated information and simply stress the original point.

Another common aspect of a large word count is too much detail. The contracting authority does not need to know about every single detail of previous contracts or experience. Ensure your response does not include unnecessary information.

One tip for long answers, if it is allowed within the bid, is to refer to appendices. This works very well with case studies and past experience as you need only include a reference and brief explanation.

If you are struggling with word counts and responses in your submission we can help with a bid review. Get in touch free on 0800 612 5563 or email

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