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AI in Proposal Writing: A Guide to Avoid Potential Pitfalls

government contracting news and events tech edit Dec 06, 2023
Person using a phone with AI

In February, we released a blog titled “Why Artificial Intelligence should NOT write your next proposal”. As with any new technology, growth, expansion, and evolution are inevitable. Since November 2022, Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot programs, notably ChatGPT by OpenAI, have grown and expanded exponentially. When ChatGPT was first launched, the data sources it drew from were frozen in September 2021. This meant it could not determine who won the 2021 World Series or identify the viral commercial from the 2022 Super Bowl. In May 2023, OpenAI beta tested a feature on ChatGPT called “Browsing,” which allowed the software to search the internet for current information. It was pulled back in July before being re-launched out of beta in October 2023.

Today, with ChatGPT 4.0 (a subscription service), users can pull real-time information from the internet. Other platforms, like and, browse the internet to create long-form content and cite where the information came from. If you read our February 2023 blog, you’ll recall proper attribution was a leading concern with using AI software for writing projects. This leap in capability has turned AI into a go-to tool for several professions. 

AI Writing Technology has Evolved 

AI’s transformation has led to widespread adoption across various services, from Google’s AI chat – Bard and Bing AI’s – Sydney to various AI chatbot platforms. This rapid evolution is like a high-speed train, changing our communication and writing styles. The journey of AI chatbots and acceptance highlights the swiftness of change. It also highlights that a blog post about AI chatbots in February 2023 may no longer be relevant in December 2023.

In a recent podcast by the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), Jim Lecinksi, an associate professor at the Kellog School of Management at Northwestern, captured this change and explained that this type of AI is not a fad but a “tectonic transitional moment.”

“I think we are very much in, as has been called, a steam-to-electricity transition moment. This is not another new app. This is not another new feature. This is not another new website or another new social network. This is a tectonic transitional moment. And you know, we have had a few moments like this in business history, and I think we’re on the precipice early days of one now.” Jim Lecinksi.  

If we ruminate on a tectonic transitional moment, we’ll see that AI is not a fad or trend but something to stay. But how do you capture that and use AI in government contracting and government proposal writing? In a world where authenticity matters, understanding your client base matters, and putting real people on real proposals speaks volumes over a Large Language Model (LLM) – which is what AI software like ChatGPT and Jasper are based on – how can you blend these two realities? And how do you handle the propriety information needed for a proposal while navigating LLMs and their unsecure networks? These are just a few of the questions that you should explore before you use AI in your proposal.

If you use AI in Your Proposal

There's no denying the potential of AI in transforming government proposal writing. With its ability to save time, enhance productivity, and reduce human error, it's worth considering in your proposal writing process, but with a lot of caveats. It's also important to approach AI with a balanced mindset and understand its role as a tool rather than replacing human input.

Proposal writers need to balance safely and securely utilizing AI technology and maintaining the human touch in their proposals. While AI can greatly enhance your writing and analytical capabilities, it is ultimately the human factor that needs to write the proposal. Finding that middle ground between these two aspects is key if you consider using AI in your proposal strategies.

Six tips if you plan to use AI in your next proposal

Tip 1: Use it cautiously and opt out of data sharing. If you will use AI for your next proposal, look for something that doesn’t use your data as a framework for the LLM. The chatbots “do not guarantee privacy, " meaning if you put it out there, it’s there for everyone else. This may mean using a closed-network AI platform (some are out there). Some platforms, like ChatGPT and, have “opt-out” features you can toggle off and on. Make sure you disable the sharing before using it. Case in point: In April 2023, it was reported that Samsung’s semiconductor division was allowing its engineers to use ChatGPT to test its source code. What went into ChatGPT was confidential and proprietary information that was never meant to be shared outside of Samsung. But what goes into ChatGPT doesn’t stay within ChatGPT. The source codes were leaked, and Samsung was left with their code being online. Samsung has since banned the use of the software for company work.

Tip 2: Read the RFP instructions to ensure you can use AI. With the explosion in popularity, there will likely come a time when you cannot use AI to write or develop your proposal. Read the RFP instructions in their entirety to confirm there are no statements saying you cannot use AI to generate your response. Stay current with Q&A and proposal amendments to ensure the government does not change its stance and ban AI usage. If you’re halfway through a proposal and a RFP amendment is released saying you cannot use AI for the response, you don’t want to be caught with half of it written by AI and forced to rewrite close to the deadline. Note: In our opinion, this would be a huge reason not to use AI in your written response.

Tip 3: Ensure You have a Policy for Responsible AI Usage. For several companies, there are set rules for how, if, and when you can use AI. If your company does not have a policy, now is the time to write one so everyone knows if and how they can use AI. If you have a policy, adhere to it, as it may include notification to leadership. This is especially important for proposals because your/your company is contractually bound based on the words in the response.

Tip 4: Use it cautiously and wisely. As mentioned above, it’s meant to be a tool, not a replacement. The use of AI is sometimes a great baseline starting point to say, “how do I explain [insert product name] to a [insert audience], who has a 12-grade reading level, to convince them to purchase [product]?” Remember, it’s a LLM, so the more data you feed it to personalize it, the more it will give you details. But the more data you provide it, the more that is shared with others and possibly your competitors. This prompt will produce a variety of ways to position your argument. It’s then incumbent upon you to take that and apply your company-specific details/talking points/metrics to sell your product.

Tip 5: Always fact-check. As a LLM, AI tools pull data from all over the internet. This means its finding is sourced from somewhere. Verifying the data it’s pulling before using it in anything you publish (proposals, 1-pagers, white papers, LinkedIn posts, YouTube video descriptions, and more) is important. Go to the source and verify, verify, verify. 

Tip 6: Run the content through a plagiarism checker. This is motherhood and apple pie, but you can’t use someone else’s work without their permission. With the LLM, there’s a good chance what it’s pulling is verbatim from something someone said somewhere else. Always, always, always run the text through a plagiarism checker to validate the work and ensure you’re not stealing someone else’s ideas. Several sites exist, including Grammarly, Plagiarism Detector, and DupliChecker.

We also want to underscore that it's important not to leverage AI to create evidence or experience-based documents like past performance qualifications and resumes. In these areas, the focus is on the actual achievements of your company or candidates. Put another way, if you feed resume requirements into an AI chatbot, it could construct a resume for an impeccably qualified candidate who, unfortunately, is entirely fictitious.

Using AI to Move Forward

Don’t rely on AI to do the job for you. As I heard Will Francis at the DMI recently say, think of ChatGPT as the intern. It will pull a lot of information for you, and then you need to go through it. At Trident Proposal Management, we understand the power of AI and its potential to revolutionize government proposal writing. We’re tracking how AI can best be used for proposal support. That's why we strive to stay at the forefront of new developments. We believe our team of capture and proposal experts, which includes technical writers and editors, cannot be replaced by AI. Maintaining a human touch in proposals is vital; we work closely with clients to ensure that their unique style and voice are preserved.

In this “tectonic transitional moment,” things are constantly changing. We know these things change, so we’re here to make sure we can track the current guidance for you (like The White House Executive Order in October on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthiness of AI). Be sure to subscribe and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest updates. 

Written by Morgan Over

Morgan is our marketing manager and a proposal support specialist. When she isn’t handling marketing for Trident, she is tech editing documents and building orals decks for our clients. As a military spouse based near New Bern, North Carolina, she supports clients around the world as part of our globally dispersed team.  

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