Is there a preferred word or common short phrase (or multiple) for a proposal made to a second party or group that is merely a first draft, intentionally hasty and likely poor quality, in order to spur discussion, and in the hope that the proposal would be improved collaboratively thereafter?

Some candidates:

  • stab - Often styled "take a stab" or "first stab." My main beef with this is it isn't clear that it is intended as a proposal before a 2nd party or group.
  • first take - About the same status as "stab." From film terminology.
  • first cut - Ditto first take.
  • strawman - I actually use this term often for this situation. It's not the standard usage of "strawman." However the analogy of an actual straw man or dummy is apt, because it designates an argument or proposal that is intended to be easy to refute, or figuratively knock down. But in this case rather than knock down because it is from an opponent, it is to be knocked down in order to give the group something to discuss, likely find fault with, and improve. Still, I don't like to misuse a term, and this feels like a bit of a misuse, or at least not a commonly accepted definition.

Due to the deficiencies mentioned in the above terms, I am still on the lookout for a better term. Or confirmation that one of the above really is a (the?) preferred term.

  • 4
    You use first draft when trying to describe this. What's wrong with it? Jul 17, 2019 at 17:04
  • 2
    – jxh
    Jul 17, 2019 at 17:41
  • I think both of those would make a pretty good answer. Sadly my Googling did not yield the legitimization of "straw man (proposal)." The latter almost eerily describes my usage; I'm even coming from a software development perspective (although that context is not especially pertinent to my question).
    – Will Cain
    Jul 18, 2019 at 20:03

2 Answers 2


If you really want something based on straw you might use some variation like "mannequin" or "scarecrow" or something like that. I'd suggest not using "straw-man" that way.

Some other possibilities:

  • Paste-up
  • First-draft or even zeroth-draft
  • Mock-up
  • Hollywood interface (refers to a chunk of software that has the visible parts but no functionality, based on old-west movie sets with only the front of the buildings)
  • Pencil sketch (and variations such as chalk sketch, water colour, etc.)
  • Thumbnail sketch
  • Some companies and government bodies have terms such as a "white paper", "blue paper", "yellow paper", probably "yellow paper" applies here. A "yellow paper" is research that has not yet been accepted, similar to a preprint.
  • Obligatory obscure reference: The book The Flying Sorcerers by David Gerrold and Larry Niven had the concept of "dirt drawings." These were plans literally drawn in the dirt in front of the place the thing would be built.
  • I especially like "zeroth draft," which seems to imply that it cannot be a final draft (whereas even for "first draft" that is a bit less clear). I haven't really heard that term used, but I think its meaning is pretty obvious. Many of those other terms could work as well, especially in certain contexts.
    – Will Cain
    Jul 18, 2019 at 20:26

a pitch to to pitch TFD

  • a sales talk
  • Informal. to attempt to sell or win approval for; promote; advertise

As in:


He gave a pitch to use his product at a sales convention.

  • 1
    Interesting. I'm not sure this generally implies collaborative improvement or development of the original proposal? But in some contexts it clearly can, like film or theater, where a pitch often includes work by the creator/artist such as storyboarding, plot summaries, or actual film/video. So I think this usage would apply well in such contexts, or where the film analogy translates well.
    – Will Cain
    Jul 18, 2019 at 20:21

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