Character Limits (in tenders) are the New Black

Character Limits (in tenders) are the New Black

Page limits in tenders are so last season! For months, we have been responding to tenders in accordance with strict word limits. Now, it seems that character limits are in vogue! These pose different challenges for bid writers but also provide plenty of opportunities, if you know where to look.

Here are some tips:

  • Check if the character limit includes spaces, so you know exactly what you need to count.
  • Write concisely. Re-write and boil down each sentence to the core essentials. For example:

“We have 20 years’ experience of delivering high performing community health care services. Our current contracts are being delivered in Bedford, Dunstable, Liverpool, St Helens, Knowsley, Preston, Lancaster and Blackpool.” (221 characters – with spaces).

Can be reduced to:

“Our high quality health services, delivered since 1998, include current contracts in Bedfordshire (x2), Merseyside (x3) & Lancashire (x3).” (138 characters – with spaces).

  • Shorten words; e.g. ‘I have’ (6 characters) can be shortened to ‘I’ve’ (4 characters);
  • Use small words; e.g. demonstrate – show; utilise – use; communicate – write; etc.
  • Don’t use bullet points (the symbols and spaces count as characters).
  • Use abbreviations (explained in full in the first instance unless it’s very common) e.g. Quality Management Systems (QMS).
  • Write numbers in digits, not words.
  • Use signs and symbols (if meaning is not lost); e.g. &, %, k (for thousand) etc.
  • Discard pronouns (this, that, these and those) wherever possible. For example;

“Now, it seems that character limits are in vogue!”

can change to:

“Now it seems character limits are in vogue!”

  • Be creative by using tables and layout that convey information without adding to the character count.
  • Go light on punctuation wherever possible. For example, don’t use it at the end of each line of a list.
  • The shackles of page limits are off so use images (check if words included in images should be included in the character count).
  • If the response needs to be inserted into an online form, test it well in advance of submission. There have been many instances where character counts in online forms do not match those of Microsoft Word – and the results are never to your advantage. Test and be prepared to shave more characters off your response if needed.
  • Online forms may also go into meltdown if you try to insert images, tables or anything other than basic text. Check what you can insert, before you create your responses.


If you have other tips for reducing characters while maintaining the quality of your tenders, let us know!

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