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IT Project Proposals: Writing to Win

by Paul Coombs
Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005
160 pp., 13 b/w. Paper, $50.00
ISBN: 0-521-61257-8.

Reviewed by Dene Grigar
Texas Woman’s University


I have to admit to ulterior motives for wanting to review IT Project Proposals: Writing to Win by Paul Coombs: There are several grants I am in the midst of co-writing with a computer engineering focus and, frankly, as an Arts and Humanities scholar I wanted to know what project proposals look like for information technology even though a member of the grant writing team specializes in that area.

While the book leans heavily on business project proposals rather than academic grant ones, I learned a great deal from Coombs’ book. Aimed at novices, the language is clear and precise, and the book takes the reader from the beginning of the proposal writing process to the end. Numerous diagrams and tables help the reader to visualize that process. Two "Case Studies," found in the Appendix, test readers on what they learned about proposal writing. A "Proposal Evaluation Questionnaire" makes it possible for readers to rate their own proposals later. Strangely missing from an otherwise flawless presentation, however, is an example of a proposal written from start to finish. An artifact like that would be priceless for novices to see.

What I have found most extraordinary about the book is one of its foci. From Chapter I (i.e. "Does Good Writing Matter?") to Chapter 2 (i.e. "The Art of Persuasion," "Knowing the Reader") to Chapter 5 ("Tightening up the Text") to Chapters 6 and 7 ("Obeying the Grammar Rules" and "Obeying the Punctuation Rules," respectively), the book’s message is fixed as much on good writing and communicating as strategy (Chapter 2), content (Chapter 3), and structure (Chapter 4). The literature and rhetoric scholar in me was deeply satisfied in knowing that what we know has value outside of our classrooms. How many computer majors have any of my colleagues and I tried to convince that core requirements in English do not constitute a waste of their time? I will hand them a copy of Coombs’ book instead next time.

I recommend this book highly for those teaching technical communication and computer engineering, particularly at the undergraduate level. But truly anyone who needs advice on writing IT-oriented grants could benefit from this handy guide.



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