A STUDY OF ENTHUSIASM IN THE RHETORIC
OF SUCCESSFUL TECHNICAL PROPOSALS
Keith Allyn Wegner
B.A., Wittenberg University, 1978
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Science
This thesis for the Master of Science degree by
Keith Allyn Wegner
has been approved for the
Communication and English
Charles E. Beck
Wegner, Keith Allyn (M.S., Technical Communication)
A Study of Enthusiasm in the Rhetoric of Successful
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Charles E. Beck
This study examined, through a lexical content
analysis, the role and use of enthusiastic vocabulary in
the rhetorical discourse of successful technical
The rhetorical context of technical proposals
offers proposal writers an opportunity to employ
promotional rhetorical discourse to affect persuasion
both directly and indirectly. Direct persuasive
discourse involves, for example, clearly demonstrating
the superiority of a technical design or approach.
Indirect persuasive discourse relies on the classical
rhetorical appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. This
study focused on the ethos of enthusiasm in technical
proposals and how such an ethos is manifested in written
Although enthusiasm in written discourse in-
volves such variables as vocabulary, syntax, metaphor,
hyperbole, and punctuation, this study isolates
vocabulary as the variable of interest. A preliminary
lexicon of enthusiastic vocabulary was identified and
used to conduct computerized searches of proposal texts.
The searches identified occurrences of the lexicon, and
an Enthusiasm Index (El) was developed to measure the
extent to which the lexicon occurred in technical
The methodology established a range of El values
and the range was validated using excerpts from Requests
for Proposals (RFPs) at the low end, and excerpts from
motivational sales textbooks at the high end. All texts
used in the study were divided into 1000 + 10 words.
The El values for the RFPs and the sales texts ranged
from 1.10 to 11.0, respectively. Enthusiasm Index
values for enthusiastic technical proposals were
expected to fall within this range.
Fifteen winning technical proposals submitted to
government agencies were analyzed. The mean El values
resulting from computer searches of the proposals as a
group indicated no significant difference with the RFPs.
Arranging the proposals into humanities and scientific
categories demonstrated that the humanities proposals
contained a significant difference in enthusiastic
vocabulary occurrences from the RFPs. The scientific
proposals showed no significant difference with the
The study methodology shows promise for use as
an analytical style tool. Occurrences of enthusiastic
vocabulary in technical proposals is illustrated in a
concordance included in the study appendices.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I
recommend its publication.
I. INTRODUCTION................................. 1
Nature of Technical Proposals............... 1
Rhetorical Background....................... 6
Problem Statement........................... 9
Arrangement of the Thesis.................. 10
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.................... 12
Origin and Contemporary Usage
of Enthusiasm........................... 12
Enthusiasm and Persuasive Discourse........ 14
Rhetoric, Audience, and Style.............. 18
Basis for Selecting the Preliminary
III. TERMS AND DEFINITIONS....................... 32
IV. RESEARCH OBJECTIVES......................... 36
Purpose of the Study....................... 36
Scope of the Study......................... 37
Objectives of the Study.................... 38
V. STUDY METHODOLOGY........................... 40
Study Methodology.......................... 40
Numerical Treatment........................ 43
Validity of the Method..................... 45
VI. RESULTS OF THE STUDY........................ 49
VII. DISCUSSION OF THE RESULTS.................... 56
General Observations....................... 56
Specific Findings.......................... 58
Potential Significance..................... 61
VIII. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.............. 63
A. Confidentiality Agreement...................... 69
B. Computer Search Checklist. .................... 72
C. Selected Proposal Concordance.................. 75
1. The Aims of Discourse.......................... 15
2. A Model of the Influence of Style on
1. A Preliminary Lexicon of Enthusiasm............. 35
2. Summary of Computer Search Results for
RFPs and Sales Texts............................ 47
3. Summary of Computer Search Results for
Technical Proposals............................. 51
4. Summary of Computer Search Results by
Technical Proposal Type......................... 52
5. Occurrences of the Lexicon by Word Form........ 54
Government agencies award contracts, which are
competitively bid, based on evaluations of bidders'
responses to Requests for Proposals. Although the
demonstrated technical competence and abilities of the
bidders are the primary considerations, evaluations may
be influenced by other elements of persuasion. The
language style of the discourse employed in the rhetoric
of technical proposals, used to indirectly effect per-
suasion, is the focus of this study. More specifically,
the treatment of language style here is primarily
concerned with a language of enthusiasm and how it is
manifested in technical proposals submitted to
This chapter introduces the nature of technical
proposals, their rhetorical background, and the state-
ment of the problem posed for this study. The conclud-
ing section describes the arrangement of the thesis.
Nature of Technical Proposals
Federal government agencies in the United States
procure about 85 percent of their equipment and
consulting services through formal competitive bidding
(Holtz 1983) The formal bidding process begins with a
notice or advertisement of a Request for Proposals (RFP)
in a procurement publication such as the Commerce
Business Daily (Larsen 1975). Notices contain a brief
description of the equipment or services sought, then
the name, address, and phone number of the person to
contact to obtain a copy of the RFP. In addition, some
notices require that interested firms submit a written
request to obtain a copy of the RFP.
An RFP issued for consulting services, for
example, typically contains the following elements:
1. Cover Sheet
2. Statement of Work
3. Type of Contract to be Awarded
4. Schedule and Duration of the Contract
5. Personnel Requirements
6. Instructions for Preparation of Proposals
7. Evaluation Criteria
8. Representations and Certifications
These elements describe the specifications of the work,
required proposal format, evaluation considerations, and
the legal conditions of the procurement. After
receiving the RFPs, firms decide whether or not they
will write proposals to compete for the work. Firms
that decide to enter the competition submit their
proposals accompanied by cost bids.
The sponsoring agency's proposal evaluation team
evaluates the proposals and the cost bids submitted.
This team is typically an ad hoc committee composed of
technical specialists, legal specialists, contract and
production specialists, cost analysts, and others who
can best assist the evaluation team leader in selecting
the best proposal for a contract award (Evans 1960).
In the bidding process just described, the
proposals referred to are known as technical proposals.
Such proposals are technical in the sense that the
subject matter is of a specialized nature or concerns a
specific technology. Skocpol (1962, p. 44) offers the
This document, usually accompanied by a cost bid, is
an offer by a business firm to solve engineering and
scientific problems for a customer.
The technical proposal originated in the engineering and
physical sciences, but is now used as a standard
procurement instrument by government agencies and
A technical proposal has a standard form and
content which distinguish it from other types of
proposals such as the research proposal and the grant
proposal. Shnitzler (1973, p. 10) describes a 13-part
format for a typical technical proposal:
2. Front Matter (Table of Contents, List of
Illustrations, and List of Tables)
5. Statement of Task or Statement of the Problem
6. Technical Description, Proposed Approach, Technical Approach, or Technical Analysis
7. Management Plan or Program Organization
8. Program Plan or Schedule
10. Capabilities and Experience, or Qualifications
11. Personnel Resumes
12. Facilities and Equipment
technical proposals of less than 50 pages, some of
these parts are combined and others eliminated. Larger
proposals contain all of these parts and any additional
items specifically requested in the RFP (Shnitzler).
Regardless of the format used, the technical
proposal is a sales tool. For many firms, it is the
primary sales tool used to obtain work (Skocpol).
Killingsworth (1983, p. 79) describes the nature of the
technical proposal in the following passage:
If the technical report is the literary offspring of
the industrial revolution and the resulting
prominence of engineering and applied science, the
technical proposal is the child of the new
technology in the free world. It represents a
curious blend of report and advertisement and thus
transforms the old rhetoric and style into a new
form requiring a new plan of action, format, tone,
The purposeful nature of the technical proposal is two-
fold: to communicate clearly the facts about a proposed
technical design or program plan, and at the same time
to persuade the reader that this design or plan is
superior to those submitted by other competitors
(Skocpol). The persuasive nature of the technical
proposal creates a rhetorical context whereby proposing
firms attempt to convince a specific audience (the
evaluators) to award them a contract to perform the
Caldwell (1959) describes two types of
persuasion used in the rhetoric of technical proposals:
Direct persuasion and indirect persuasion. He contends
(p. 54) that direct persuasion depends on the following
1. General reputation of Contractor
2. Competence and experience in a specific
3. Specific features and advantages of the
design offered by Contractor
4. Financial responsibility for performance
Indirect persuasion is "largely a function of physical
appearance, quality of organization, and language style"
(Caldwell, p. 54). Such indirect persuasion has a
rhetorical history originating from Aristotle. As the
emphasis on rhetorical discourse moved from early
oratory forms to modern written forms, the traditions of
indirect persuasion attributed largely to Aristotle are
still with us. The appearance, organization, and
writing style of most written discourse affect, to one
degree or another, the impressions given to the reader.
Since technical proposals are intended to be persuasive
documents, the characteristics of indirect persuasion
are likely to appear in their discourse.
Aristotle defined Rhetoric as "the faculty
[power] of discovering in the particular case what are
the available means of persuasion" (Cooper, trans. 1932,
p. 7). He went on to describe three principal means, or
modes, of persuasion. The first mode originates from
the character and credibility, or ethos, of the speaker.
The second consists of producing the right emotional
state, pathos, in the audience. The third mode consists
of achieving assent by proving through argument, logos,
a truth or apparent truth (Brooks and Warren 1970).
Aristotle argues that the most important of
these modes of persuasion is the ethos of the speaker.
For Aristotle, the rhetorical context is the relation-
ship between a speaker (orator), an audience, and the
topic of the speech. The rhetorical context for tech-
nical proposals is the relationship between the writer,
reader, and subject matter of the text. In this
context, the writer may impart ethos through the tone
and style of written discourse. How this is accom-
plished depends on the subject matter and the intended
The tone and style of discourse in the technical
proposal need to be carefully crafted to achieve a
balance between two conflicting tendencies:
1. A clear demonstration of the bidder's
technical competence, and
2. The promotional rhetoric aimed at
persuading the proposal evaluators that the
bidder's proposed program is superior to
If the proposal writer introduces too much promotional
emphasis, the tone of the proposal may be critically
characterized as a mere "sales pitch." Likewise,
employing a strictly scientific tone throughout the
proposal risks alienating the non-technical members of
the evaluation team.
The technical proposal, for example, uses
scientific writing to explain clearly the details of a
technical design. In an engineering proposal, the
technical design is often the centerpiece of the
document. But relying on this writing style for the
entire proposal would not produce a persuasive document.
Britton (1972, p. 72) observes that,
Writers are recognizing that the cold detachment of
the pure scientist may be appropriate when he writes
for the record, but unsuited to documents which,
though related to science, are attempting primarily
to communicate with an audience.
In scientific writing, the ethos of the writer is, in
part, established through impartial and objective
reporting. Adopting a personal style for such writing
is thought to interfere in delivering a clear,
efficient, and unambiguous report (Britton). Britton
quotes Theodore Savory in describing one of the pitfalls
of scientific writing:
In consequence of this nature of scientific
language, the scientific writer is, in Savory's
words, "condemned if not to dullness at least to
being unoriginal." (p. 71)
A dull proposal may be poorly received by the evaluators
even if it contains a well-conceived technical solution.
The proposal writer needs to consider that the
evaluating audience for the technical proposal is not
made up exclusively of scientists, engineers, and
technical specialists. Evaluation teams are more often
composed of these personnel along with non-technical
members such as contract specialists, administrators,
and accountants. Directing the proposal discourse
toward, or "attending to," the non-technical audience of
the proposal is a key rhetorical consideration in
crafting an effective and persuasive document.
In developing the rhetoric of the technical
proposal, the ethos of the firm competing for the work
should not be left buried in the Qualifications and
Experience section, but should instead be apparent to
the readers from the outset. DeBakey (1976, p. 11)
advocates "make your introduction straightforward,
sharp, and provocative." Also she says, "Your opening
paragraph should inspire confidence and convince the
reader that what you wish to do warrants careful
Establishing the ethos of the firm in the
proposal discourse is key to effecting persuasion in the
evaluation team. A proponent of introducing enthusiasm
in a proposal to establish ethos is Robert MacAskill.
MacAskill (1961) authored the only paper found in the
literature which specifically advocates using enthusiasm
in technical proposals. He writes,
Show enthusiasm. Credence is thus given to the
proposal. There is no. substitute for enthusiasm.
It gives life to an otherwise dull proposal. How
can the customer become excited about your proposal
if you are not? (p. 57)
An example in the literature concerned with proposal
evaluation also supports the persuasive value of this
mode of persuasion: Murdick (1967) lists "eagerness" as
one of seven evaluation criteria used to judge technical
proposals. He writes that, "While the desire of a
bidder to take on a job may be a subjective quantity, it
is an important one" (p. 102).
Although these authors advocate establishing an
ethos of enthusiasm in the rhetoric of technical
proposals, prescriptive writing strategies for
demonstrating such an ethos have not been described.
There is also a lack of published research to support
this strategy. This study attempts to develop one
aspect of such a prescriptive writing strategy and to
support it through research.
The problem posed for this study is three-fold:
1. Defining a lexicon of enthusiasm in the
rhetorical context of the technical
2. Determining whether this lexicon is present
in the discourse of successful technical
3. If the lexicon is present, measuring the
extent to which it is used in the
Arrangement of the Thesis
The remainder of the thesis is arranged into
seven chapters and includes a bibliography and appendix.
Chapter II reviews the literature that provides a
theoretical basis for the study. Chapter III describes
the terms and definitions used. Chapter IV contains the
research objectives and the purpose and scope of the
study. Chapter V describes the methodology employed and
validity of the method. Chapter VI presents the results
of the study, and Chapter VII discusses these results in
terms both of observations and findings and of their
potential significance. Conclusions and recommendations
drawn from the results of the study are presented in
The bibliography contains a list of all
references cited in the thesis arranged alphabetically
by author. The appendix contains a copy of the
Confidentiality Agreement given to those individuals and
firms who provided technical proposals used in this
study. Also included in the appendix is the checklist
used to guide the computer searches and a selected
concordance of the lexicon found as a result of the
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
To isolate enthusiasm in technical proposals
requires an understanding of the concept, its use in
persuasive discourse, and a method for linguistic
isolation of the concept in technical proposals. To
that end, this literature review is arranged into four
The first section describes the semantic
background of enthusiasm. The second section discusses
the role enthusiasm plays in written persuasive
discourse. The rhetorical considerations regarding
audience and writing style are described in the third
section. The concluding section describes the basis for
the vocabulary list (lexicon) used in the study.
Origin and Contemporary Usage of Enthusiasm
The Greek origin of enthusiasm is
enthousiasmos, inspiration, from enthousiazein, to be
inspired by a god, from enthous and entheos, possessed
or inspired. The later Latin abstract noun comes from
enthusiasmus (American Heritage Dictionary 1981). In
the Seventeenth Century, enthusiastical (the longer
alternative of enthusiastic), meant "deluded in
religion" or "moved irrationally." The word took on a
more approving meaning, "strongly manifesting zeal," in
the Eighteenth Century (Tucker 1972, p. 2). The present
noun form of enthusiasm implies happiness and
exuberance. The Oxford English Dictionary reflects this
definition as, "rapturous intensity of feeling in favour
of person, principle, or cause" (Tucker, p. 49). Three
modern definitions appear in the American Heritage
1. a. Rapturous interest or excitement,
b. Ardent fondness or eagerness; zeal.
2. A Subject or activity that inspires a
3. Archaic. a. Ecstasy arising from supposed
possession by a god. b. A fanatic
Although enthusiasm enjoys a more positive connotation
in modern usage, its negative sense is still reserved
for discussions about "enthusiasts whose zeal outruns
their scholarship" (Tucker, p. 3).
Examples of the more approving senses of
enthusiasm are given by Peale, a popular inspirational
author. He espouses, "Enthusiasm-the priceless quality
that makes everything different!" and "Enthusiasm that
persuades is perhaps the most powerful communicator on
earth" (Peale 1967). In addition to his personal views,
Peale cites opinions on the subject of enthusiasm from
several scholars, notably, Toynbee and Emerson. He
quotes Toynbee as saying,
Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and
enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things; first,
an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and
second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying
that ideal into practice, (p. 12)
Emerson, Peale writes, stated that, "Nothing great was
ever achieved without enthusiasm" (p. 12).
Enthusiasm has clearly positive attributes. In
everyday experience, enthusiastic people arouse and
enliven most of us. An enthusiastic speaker espousing on
a topic of mutual interest can captivate an audience.
But can written discourse capture this sort of
enthusiasm? And is such discourse persuasive?
Examining the nature of persuasive written discourse
provides a clue.
Enthusiasm and Persuasive Discourse
Discourse theory describes the role and function
of coherent, written text used to develop a topic or
subject area. James Kinneavy's aims of discourse model
is useful for understanding the nature of the persuasive
discourse used in technical proposals (Kinneavy 1971).
Kinneavy's discourse model is illustrated in Figure 1.
Kinneavy posits that emphasis on the encoder or
decoder, (writer and reader, respectively), gives person
discourse. Emphasis on reality to which reference is
made gives reference discourse. And emphasis on the
discourse product itself gives product discourse.
Person discourse focuses on the writer or the reader and
manifests itself in two forms: expressive discourse
Declarations of independence
Constitutions of clubs
A tentative definition of...
Proposing a solution to problems
Proving a point by arguing from accepted
Proving a point by generalizing from
A combination of both
Ballad, Folk Song
Nontechnical encyclopedia articles
Figure 1: The Aims of Discourse
Source: James L. Kinneavy, A Theory of Discourse.
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
1971), p. 61.
emphasizing the writer, and persuasive discourse
emphasizing the reader. In Kinneavy's view, discourse
"aimed" at the reader is persuasive; however, he points
out that few pure aims of discourse exist. He states
Persuasion as a matter of course incorporates
information about the product, maybe even some valid
scientific proof of its superiority, and it may use
such literary techniques as rhythm, rhyme, and
alliteration in its slogan. Literature incorporates
expressive elements and thematic or persuasive
components. Scientific prose includes persuasive
aspects. The list could go on. (p. 60)
The technical proposal contains these mixed aims of
discourse. Kinneavy might characterize the discourse
style of the technical proposal as pragmatic or
subjective information viewed in relation to actual
receivers or decoders (readers). Careful arrangement of
the pragmatic information in the proposal promotes its
persuasive value. Kinneavy describes this procedure in
the following passage:
"Facts" in persuasion are put to work to prove a
specific thesis. The facts which could do a
disservice to the cause must be either concealed or
minimized, and facts which tend to support the cause
must be magnified, (p. 253)
The discourse style of the technical proposal contains
the elements of a pragmatic, informative, and persuasive
discourse. Kinneavy defines two characteristics of
persuasive discourse. The first includes use of a
language style that will appear "natural" to the
audience, thus establishing a linguistic bond between
the writer and reader. For example, the writer presents
technical material using standard terminology (avoiding
unnecessary jargon) for technical audiences; technical
material intended for lay audiences is written using
more accessible, common terminology.
The second characteristic is "a quality of
language, a style that will be 'extraordinary' enough to
call some attention to the speaker's language and
separate it from the commonplace and routine" (Kinneavy,
An indirect emotional appeal contained in a
pragmatic, informative discourse may attract (or even
captivate) the attention of the reader, particularly if
it arouses the reader's interest. Herzing (1970, p.
181) refers to such appeals as "extra-rational" and
The so-called extra-rational appeals provide the
writer with a means of overcoming the mechanical
tendencies which crop up in an essay, and they
provide the writer with techniques which can be of
material value in attaining his desired end.
Enthusiasm introduces this sort of extra-rational appeal
into the proposal. The extra-rational appeal works
through the dynamic of the writer's ethos acting on the
persuasiveness of this appeal to the reader. To employ
this strategy effectively in a technical proposal
depends on the following:
1. The proposal writer's ability to identify
appropriate rhetorical contexts (locations
in the proposal) in which to place these
2. A style of discourse which enhances the
persuasive value of the appeal, and
3. A receptive audience to receive the appeal
and react favorably to it.
The connection between rhetorical process, audience, and
style is well established in the literature. The
discussion in the next section illustrates the
relationship between these three variables.
Rhetoric. Audience, and Style
For Aristotle, rhetoric is the process of
applying three modes of persuasion, ethos, pathos, and
argument (or logos), to discover the available means of
persuading an audience. Ethos refers to the character
of the speaker and is a cause of persuasion when a
speech is delivered in such a manner as to make the
speaker worthy of belief. Aristotle contends that ethos
is the most important of the three modes. Pathos in-
volves producing an appropriate emotional response in
the audience. And argument or logos pertains to the
principles of sound argument (Cooper).
In the rhetorical situation of a speaker and an
audience, discovering the available means of persuasion
is effected by the direct response of the audience to
the speaker. The rhetorical situation of the technical
proposal is not amenable to this approach. However,
Aristotle's notion of the role of ethos in affecting
persuasion is relevant to proposal preparation. Cherry
(1988, p. 255) notes that,
For Aristotle, an important aspect of ethos involves
assessing the characteristics of an audience and
constructing the discourse in such a way as to
portray oneself as embodying those same
characteristics. He suggests that "people always
think well of speeches adapted to and reflecting
their own character: and we can now see how to
compose our speeches so as to adapt them and
ourselves to our audience."
Cherry further observes that,
Aristotle maintains that since rhetoric is concerned
with matters that are contingent rather than
absolute...the character of the speaker is
especially important in securing assent. He also
contends that the persuasive appeal of the speaker's
character must be seen as based on the speech
itself, not on prior reputation, (p. 253)
The proposal writer initiates the process of
"discovering the available means of persuasion" before
any writing begins. This discovery process consists of
carefully analyzing the audience; in this case, the
audience is the proposal evaluation team.
The process of analyzing the evaluation team can
be extensive. For example, Whalen describes an analysis
process that includes what he calls "vulnerability
assessment reports." Such reports contain information
on the perceived strengths and weaknesses of potential
bidders based on information obtained from agency
representatives who will evaluate the proposals. The
proposal team relies on members of the firm who are
familiar with the sponsoring agency's evaluation team to
provide as much information as possible concerning the
personalities, likes, and dislikes, of the evaluators
(Whalen 1985). Using the results of this analysis, the
proposal writers can appropriately "aim" the proposal
discourse at this evaluating audience.
Manifesting an enthusiastic ethos in the
language of the proposal points to the expressive kind
of person discourse in Kinnevy's aims of discourse model
referred to earlier. In the context of the technical
proposal, the expressive discourse style is writer-
based. If the aim of proposal discourse is persuasion,
that is, audience-based discourse, introducing an
expressive discourse of enthusiasm might seem out of
However, the purpose of enthusiasm is to
introduce an extra-rational rhetorical appeal that
discloses the motivation of the firm in submitting the
proposal. That a firm expresses enthusiasm about doing
the work required by a government agency might appear to
have more persuasive value to such a customer than other
motives, such as making a profit, or promoting the
firm's stated mission.
Employing expressive discourse for this purpose
opens up a number of possibilities for the proposal
writer. In languages style., expressive discourse uses
features such as metaphor, hyperbole, exclamation,
emotives, and so forth. Although these features are
useful tools to the writer, they are usually
inappropriate for the technical proposal. Thus, the
present investigation seeks to identify a lexicon, or
vocabulary, that expresses enthusiasm appropriately in
the pragmatic, informative style of discourse used in
In presenting an ethos of enthusiasm in the
proposal, carefully crafted discourse ensures that the
audience perceives a bidder's enthusiasm to perform the
work as a genuine motive. To reinforce the genuineness
of this rhetorical appeal, a proposal writer may use a
strategy such as the "theme-message" technique described
by Boyd and McCoy (1988). The technique involves
identifying 3-5 theme messages and successively reintro-
ducing them in appropriate proposal sections. For
example, stating that the firm is excited about parti-
cipating in a project that employs a "cutting edge"
technology might be one appropriate theme message for an
experimental engineering proposal. The style of dis-
course used to formulate such messages closely relates
to their persuasive effect.
Rolf Sandell, a Swedish psychologist, conducted a
series of studies to explore the relationship between
linguistic style and persuasion. Sandell (1977, pp. 73-
74) considers as parts of persuasive effects each of the
1. Comprehension A proper appreciation of
the content of the message, its
propositions and its conclusions, even if
only implied, about the object.
2. Acceptance of message The complex of
reactions to the specific form of the
message, including its style, or the
impressions of the message as message, for
what it is, rather than for what it is
3. Acceptance of content The reaction to the
statements and conclusions of the
communication against some criterion of
subjective truth or validity (agreement-
disagreement, belief-disbelief, etc.)*
4. Attitude change (what McGuire calls
yielding) is a tripartite effect, based on
beliefs, evaluations, and intentions. It
is basically a cognitive reorganization
which may or may not be directly reflected
in behaviour. To qualify as a persuasion
effect, it is here assumed to be immediate
on acceptance of the communication content.
He also identified the variable "retention" as a
persuasive effect in his studies; but this variable is
not relevant to the current discussion. Based on his
research, Sandell proposed a model depicting the
influence of style on the persuasion process. His model
is illustrated in Figure 2.
This model is useful because it clearly depicts
the persuasive process in terms of an ethos-laden
message and its effects on the receiving audience.
Though Sandell concedes some inadequacies, the model
reflects his best attempt at capturing the phenomenon of
style and persuasion based on the results of his
The first study Sandell describes, "Study 1:
The Correlation Between Style and Persuasive Intent," is
relevant to the current investigation. He selected the
style variables listed below and studied their correla-
Figure 2: A Model of the Influence
; of Style on Persuasion
Source: Rolf Sandell, Linguistic Style and Persuasion,
(London: Academic Press, 1977), p. 234.
tive effects with respect to their assumed persuasive
1. Average word length
2. Average clause length
3 . Average sentence length
4. Percent nouns
5. Percent verbs
6. Percent adjectives
7. Percentage of other parts : of speech
8. Unusual words
9. Reinforcers (e.g., very, only) extremely, a
11. ' Initial assonances (pair phonemes) of identical
12. End assonances
Sandell analyzed these style variables by comparing two
populations of 14 samples of 100-word newspaper texts
and two populations of 14 samples of consumer food
advertising texts, 50-100 words long, obtained from
"women's journals" [Sandell's term]. He then conducted
a variety of statistical analyses comparing the
occurrences of the 12 variables in the texts.
Sandell's most consistent finding involved
adjectives. In discussing the results of this study he
Apparently, persuasive texts rely heavily on using
adjectives to achieve their ends....adjectives may
be used expressively in persuasion, not primarily in
order to characterize something but rather to create
a favourable or at least suggestible mood on the
part of the receiver. This is the function of
emotive language use, as distinct from referential
language, (pp. 127-128)
The results of this study are instructive for two
reasons. First, Sandell's work provides methodological
support for the current investigation. Secondly, the
results indicate that lexical searches of documents with
"persuasive intent," such as technical proposals, will
likely result in more occurrences of adjective forms of
vocabulary than noun, verb, and adverb forms. This
expectation will be examined in the findings of this
Investigating texts written with persuasive
intent for the presence of certain style character-
istics, such as lexicon, provides only a first step
toward understanding the role and effects of style in
persuading an audience. Cherry argues that,
like audience representation, self-representation in
writing is a subtle and complex multidimensional
phenomenon that skilled writers control and
manipulate to their rhetorical advantage, (p. 252)
Portraying an ethos of enthusiasm in proposal discourse
is a manifestation of this self-representational
phenomenon. In investigating only the lexical aspects
of such discourse, the complexity of the phenomenon is
admittedly difficult to capture. The present study
seeks only to provide insight into the lexical dimension
of the phenomenon.
Lack of previous research has hampered
systematic examinations of expressive written discourse.
Cherry observed the following in regard to his
examination of self-representation in written discourse:
Although numerous studies have begun to explore the
complexity of audience representation in writing, no
corresponding literature on self-representation in
written discourse has yet emerged. Composition
textbooks often refer to "persona," or sometimes to
ethos, and the notion of "voice" is prevalent in the
composition literature, but these terms and the con-
cepts behind them have not been subjected to careful
examination in either composition theory or composi-
tion research. Neglect of self-representation in
the study of writing is curious given the almost
universal significance attached to the self-as-
speaker or self-as-writer by rhetoricians and dis-
course theorists, (p. 252)
The current investigation seeks to provide some basic
lexical information in this virtually unresearched area.
Presumably other researchers may find the results of
this study useful for further exploration.
Basis for Selecting the Preliminary Lexicon
Sandell relied on the advice of the advertising
professionals he interviewed for developing the content
variables to use. Support for selecting the lexical
variables used in this study derives from published
literature concerning technical writing in general and
technical proposal writing and evaluation in particular.
In Sherman's book on technical writing (Sherman
1966), the chapter on proposals discusses two words in-
cluded on the preliminary lexicon list. These two words
are: interest and desire. Sherman writes,
In a proposal where it is necessary to arouse both
interest and desire it is usually best to try to
arouse both of them at the same time. That is,
secure interest by making the reader immediately
aware that the proposal is something he desires.
...we look for an approach that associates our
proposal with a desire that the reader already
feels: desire to save time or money, desire for
expansion, desire for freedom from burdensome
details, desire that work be done more smoothly and
efficiently, (p. 258)
Sherman ends his discussion of proposals with an example
technical proposal obtained from Texas Instruments, Inc.
In the introduction of this example proposal, the first
sentence indicates the motivation of the firm to bid:
Texas Instruments is extremely interested in this
project because it offers the opportunity to apply
the company's years of solid-state experience to a
problem which has tremendous military importance.
The Technical Discussion section reinforces their
enthusiasm for the project as indicated by a sentence in
the second paragraph:
Although this device is not useful over the wide
ranges required of the proposed transducers, it is
indicative of the diversified interest in solid-
state devices at Texas Instruments. [Emphasis
In both of the above examples, the proposal reflects a
technique advocated by Hall (1977) whereby a relation-
ship is established between the problem and its proposed
solution and the interests and capabilities of the
bidder. That proposals should contain statements of a
bidder's interest and desire to perform the work is
further supported in the literature related to proposal
evaluation. Marsh (1969, p. 25) advocates "It should be
established that all the firms selected are interested
and willing to tender."
Closely related to interest and desire is the
more expressive word, eager. Support for including this
word in the preliminary lexicon is found also in
proposal evaluation literature. Murdick (1961)
identifies "eagerness" as one of seven criteria used to
evaluate technical proposals. Unfortunately, Murdick
fails to elaborate how he determines the eagerness of a
firm from the technical proposals he reviews.
A potential limitation for appropriate proposal
language and scientific decorum is reached in locating
support for the last two words of the preliminary
lexicon, enthusiasm and excitement. Smith (1963, p. 72)
illustrates an example of this limitation in the tech-
nical proposal section of his book on technical writing:
At the other end of the scale, the technical writer
must parry the natural enthusiasm of the sales
department and the extravagant adjectives that are
the stock and trade of all salesmen.
A study conducted by Myers (1985) of two biologists'
research proposals also addresses language appropriate-
ness. Myers writes,
There is a similar tension in their attempts to
present their work as interesting, for they must
show their work is original and yet show that it is
entirely in accordance with the existing discipline.
So they use citations, or significant vocabulary, or
on occasion directly claim that they can make a
contribution. But here too they are limited; for
instance words like new, fundamental, and important
are all but forbidden, and even interesting seems to
provoke some readers.
When decorum is no longer demanded by the proposal
format, and the evaluating audience, they are
unabashedly enthusiastic about their projects. They
have not lost the sense they had at the beginning
that they are in hot pursuit of the secrets of life,
though in their proposals they conceal their
excitement, (pp. 237-238)
Where exactly does the language appropriateness
limit lie? This limitation appears to be a rhetorical
"moving target" dictated more by the appropriate
language expected by the audience and less by the
instincts of the proposal writer. That the proposal
evaluators determine the boundaries of appropriate
language used, and thereby define the rhetorical context
of a proposal, is evident from published remarks by two
different evaluators. Both of the biologists Myers
studied had served on grant panels and reviewed "piles
of proposals." Concerning this experience, one of the
biologists, Dr. Crews, commented that, "they [proposals]
have to be made exciting" (p. 226).
A second evaluator, MacAskill, advocates the
following to proposal writers:
Show enthusiasm. The enthusiastic writer is an
uninhibited writer. From his mind flow words,
phrases, and ideas that are closer to what he means
than when he restricts his feelings within the
confines of the usually accepted standards of
technical writing, (p. 57)
He goes on to say,
I am not proposing that we abandon technically and
financially sound proposals and substitute in their
place reams of rhetorical exposition. Persuasion
alone cannot win a contract. However, all other
things being equal, the proposal that wins contains
most of the elements of persuasion, (p. 57)
Probably Crews and MacAskill would favorably receive
technical proposals that contained the words enthusiasm
and exciting. In determining the appropriateness for a
particular audience of including expressive language in
a technical proposal, DeBakey provides the following
Knowing your audience will help you decide what to
include and how much to elaborate. You should
therefore find out all you can about the agency or
foundation to which you plan to apply, (p. 7)
This guidance also applies specifically to the
composition of proposal evaluation committees. The more
a proposal writer knows about the personalities of the
evaluation committee, the better the writer can gauge
the limitations (if any) of potential rhetorical
constraints on the proposal language.
Having defined the rhetorical range of appro-
priate lexicon, the preliminary list of words in the
lexicon proposed for this study is the following:
This list may be expanded substantially by simply
including all the synonyms of these words. However,
many of these synonyms are inappropriate for the
discourse of technical proposals. For example, three
synonyms of desirelonging, passion, and lustare not
likely to occur in the kind of proposals considered for
To minimize the seemingly arbitrariness of
excluding some words from the preliminary lexicon, only
synonyms determined to be equivalent and appropriate
were included. The criteria used to establish
equivalency involved consulting Roaet's II, The New
Thesaurus (1988) and listing synonyms of the various
forms of the five words given above. The process was
then reversed to determine which listed synonyms
included any of the five original words as their
synonyms. Five equivalent synonyms were found using
this procedure: avid, concern, inspire, intrigue, and
passion. Only one of these five synonyms, passion, was
deemed inappropriate; the other four were added to the
The complete lexicon list, which includes the
noun, verb, adverb, and adjective forms of these words
is illustrated in Table 1, which is found on page 35 in
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Within the general framework of proposal writing
and persuasion outlined earlier, it is useful to define
related significant concepts so that they are used
appropriately in this context. This chapter stipulates
the key definitions used in this study.
Technical proposal. A formal, written offer to provide
a service. The offer is in the form of a persuasive,
informative, and scientific document submitted in
response to an advertised request and is accompanied by
a cost bid. (Technical proposals considered in this
study are limited to those submitted to federal, state,
or local government agencies.)
Rhetoric. A tripartite strategy employed by a speaker
or a writer to influence or persuade the thoughts and
actions of an audience. Used in the Aristotelian sense,
rhetoric has three forms, or modes: Ethos (character
and credibility of the speaker), Pathos (extra-rational
or emotive appeals), and Argument, logos (logical organ-
ization and arrangement of information). In technical
proposal writing, rhetoric involves using written lan-
guage to accomplish three aims: (1) establishing the
bidder's credibility and character to the readers
(evaluators), (2) including appropriate extra-rational
constructs within the proposal text which appeal to the
reader, and (3) organizing and arranging the discourse
of the text in such a way as to maximize its persuasive
Discourse. The coherent, written text used to develop a
topic or subject area. The discourse in a technical
proposal may satisfy any of three aims: Persuasion,
Reference, and Expression.
Persuasive discourse. Discourse directed toward an
audience which employs one or more of the three
modes of rhetoric: Ethos, Pathos, and Argument
Reference discourse. A reality-based discourse
directed toward Scientific or Informative aims.
This discourse is used to explain, inform, and
Expressive discourse. A writer-based discourse that
portrays mood and motivation. In rhetoric, this
discourse is associated with ethos.
Enthusiasm. A demonstration indicating a lively
interest, excitement, desire, or eagerness for a subject
or activity. In writing, enthusiasm is manifested in
select words and language style.
Lexicon. The collection of words and terms used in a
particular subject area. The lexicon of enthusiasm
proposed for this study includes the words listed in
Table 1. The preliminary lexicon of enthusiasm was
derived from the noun, verb, adverb, and adjective forms
of interesting, desire, eager, exciting, enthusiasm, and
their appropriate synonyms, avid, concern, inspire, and
intriguing. The word forms found in Table 1 are taken
from accepted usage forms described in the American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
A Preliminary Lexicon of Enthusiasm
Desire, Desires, Desirability, Desirableness,
Interest, Interests, Interestedness
Concern, Concerns, Concerned, Concerning
Desires, Desired, Desiring
Excite, Excites, Excited, Exciting
Inspire, Inspires, Inspired, Inspiring
Interests, Interested, Interesting
Intrigues, Intrigued, Intriguing
The problem statement posed earlier in Chapter I
identified the need for examining enthusiasm (in terms
of vocabulary and audience appeal) as a persuasive
component of technical proposals. This chapter
clarifies the purpose of the study and stipulates the
scope for examining the issue. Within this purpose and
scope, three specific research objectives prove central
to the study.
Purpose of the Study
The primary purpose of this study is to
determine whether the preliminary lexicon of enthusiasm
(derived in Chapter Two and defined in Chapter Three) is
present in the rhetorical discourse of successful
(winning) technical proposals, and to what extent this
lexicon is present. The hypothesis is that successful
technical proposals submitted to government agencies
contain a statistically significant portion of this
lexicon in their discourse.
If the results of the analysis support this
hypothesis, this support would indicate that enthusiasm
plays a role in the rhetorical strategy of successful
technical proposals. Proposal writers need this kind
of research data to improve the effectiveness of their
proposal writing. Firms that obtain the majority of
their work through technical proposals may prosper or
wither based partly on the skill and effectiveness of
their proposal writers.
A secondary purpose of this study is to propose
and describe a lexicon of enthusiasm. Such a lexicon
can become a prescriptive writing tool. Currently, much
of the literature concerning rhetoric in proposal
writing is descriptive in the sense that writing and
organizational strategies are described in general terms
but stop short of addressing specific "how to" elements
such as effective vocabulary and syntax construction.
To fill this gap, part of the work of this study is
devoted to identifying and supporting a prescriptive
writing tool that proposal writers can use to make their
proposals more effective. A selected concordance
included in Appendix C provides a list of phrases
containing occurrences of the preliminary lexicon.
Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is limited in several
areas. The data used for the study is obtained only
from winning technical proposals that were submitted to
federal, state, and local government agencies (or their
designated representatives). Secondly, using only
successful proposals precludes any comparison with
losing proposals; it also precludes any discussion of
the various deciding factors which led to their success
such as technical superiority, cost, better qualifica-
tions, more experience, and so forth. Additional re-
search is needed to determine the extent to which such
rhetorical discourse influences the decisions of
A third limitation to the study is that enthus-
iasm can be manifested in discourse in ways that are
difficult to capture systematically. Lexicon is only
one component of an enthusiastic language style. Other
components include syntax, metaphor, arrangement, and
punctuation, to name a few. The scope of the study is
limited to lexical considerations.
Objectives of the Study
There are three specific research objectives
this study seeks to accomplish:
1. To propose a preliminary lexicon of
enthusiasm contained in the discourse of
2. To conduct a content analysis of successful
technical proposals and identify occur-
rences of the preliminary lexicon in the
3. To quantify the extent to which such
occurrences of the lexicon are present in
A pilot study tested the viability of accom-
plishing these objectives, and the results indicated
that a full study would be feasible. The methodology,
results, and discussion of the present investigation are
contained in the next three chapters.
The success of the methodology employed for the
type of content analyses undertaken for this study
depends on a clearly defined analysis strategy,
operationally defined variables, and a validation
procedure that provides a measure of the validity of the
data. The methodology used adhered to these
This chapter describes the methodology used to
conduct the content analyses on the technical proposals
examined. In the first section, the computer search
routine used for data collection is discussed in detail.
The second section describes the numerical treatment and
the formulas used. The concluding section addresses the
validity of the method.
Firms and individuals provided technical
proposals for this study in exchange for copies of this
research report. Proposals had to satisfy two criteria:
(1) They were successful, that is, resulted in the
award of a contract; and (2) They were submitted to a
federal, state, or local government agency, or
organization acting on behalf of a government agency. A
Confidentiality Agreement was provided to each study
participant. (An example agreement is illustrated in
The methodology employed for this study followed
three guidelines identified by Hough (1969, p. 58) for
numerical investigations of literary style:
1. Make a clear identification of what it is
that is being counted;
2. Get the help of someone who can count
right, or use a machine;
3. Make sure that the argument is actually
supported by the figures.
As reflected in the tone of his guidelines, Hough is
skeptical toward the value of quantified discourse
analysis in interpreting style. He concedes, however,
that such analyses may contribute to qualitative
interpretations. Hough's guidelines are applicable
because the study specifically focuses on the presence
of the preliminary lexicon as an indicator of
The vocabulary quantified for the study is
clearly identified in Table 1 (Chapter III). The
variable measured was the presence or absence, in the
technical proposal texts examined, of the 53 words
listed in Table 1. To measure this variable, occur-
rences of words from the lexicon were counted in 1000-
word samples of computerized proposal texts.
The proposal texts were "searched" for occur-
rences of the words in the lexicon using a 1980 IBM
personal computer (PC). Proposal texts were obtained in
one of two forms: (1) electronic word-processing
files; or (2) hard-copy texts. Electronic files were
obtained in either Microsoft Word (Version 4.0) or Word
Perfect (Version 5.0) word-processing software formats.
Hard-copy texts were electronically scanned using a 1987
DEST scanner to capture the text into electronic ASCII
files. The ASCII files were then converted to Microsoft
Word format. Texts printed in fonts unreadable by the
scanner were retyped in either Microsoft Word or Word
All text files were stored on 5^4-inch floppy
diskettes. Each file was checked for spelling accuracy
using the "spell-check" function of the software.
Samples of 1000 + 10 words were obtained from each
proposal. The samples were prepared in 3-5 page incre-
ments starting with the introductory sections. The
length of each sample was determined using the statis-
tical function of Grammatik II (Version 1.31). Word
counts can be obtained from the word-processing soft-
ware, but minor differences in the counting algorithms
used by the two software programs resulted in some
counting discrepancies. Thus, Grammatik II was used to
verify that the word count of each sample equaled 1000 +
10 words. Samples were not taken from proposal
appendices, corporate experience sections, resumes, or
project scheduling sections. Charts, graphs, tables,
and illustrations were also not included in the samples.
The electronic texts were loaded on the PC from
floppy disk files. Each file was electronically
searched for occurrences of the word forms listed in
Table 1. Each search was checked off manually on a
Computer Search Checklist. Completed checklists indi-
cate whether a word was found, and how many times, or
not found. The Computer Search Checklist is illustrated
in Appendix B.
Using the computerized search procedure reduced
investigator bias and limited errors of omission that
could occur by simply reading the text. Investigator
judgement was introduced in one area. Word occurrences
located by the computer searches were reviewed for the
context of their occurrence within the proposal text.
Words that occurred out of context, ("conflict-of-
interest," for example), were excluded.
The basis used for numerical analysis of the
texts examined is described by Yule (1968) in The
Statistical Analysis of Literary Vocabulary. According
to Yule, measures of the occurrence of vocabulary in
text samples can be stated as simple ratios provided
that all the samples are of equal or nearly equal size.
All of the text samples used (1000 + 10 words) fit this
criteria. The formula used to measure occurrences of
the lexicon is:
El = 1000 ---- (1)
where El is the Enthusiasm Index;
0n is the number of occurrences of words
in the lexicon; and
N is the number of words in the sample.
Because the resulting ratios are typically small decimal
fractions, each ratio was multiplied by the factor 1000
to yield whole numbers, which were easier to work with.
(Yule used 10,000 as a factor for his work because many
of his samples were quite large.)
Where multiple samples are obtained from the
same proposal, equation (1) is expanded to the form:
El = 1000
(n)1 + (n^ 2 + *'(n)n
N-^ + N2 + Nj^
Each sample of 1000 words must be accounted for in the
denominator of equation (2) because Yule noticed that
there is an additive effect on vocabulary occurrence
when increasing sizes of samples from the same author
were measured. Thus, the form of equation (2) is
actually a measure of the mean of multiple samples.
This approach retards the additive effect that could
result from taking large samples from large proposals;
and it also allows multiple samples taken from large
proposals to be compared with single samples taken from
The Enthusiasm Index (El) functions as an in-
dicator of the level of enthusiasm in a technical
proposal, as measured by the multiple occurrences of
words from the lexicon in the text. The El values can
theoretically range from 0 to 1000. Actual values are
predicted to fall between 0, for no occurrences, to
approximately 11, for very enthusiastic texts. This
interpretation is based on the discussion of the
validity of the method described in the next section.
Validity of the Method
The study method was validated by analyzing re-
presentative samples of texts from two different genres
related to technical proposals. Ten sample texts of
1000 + 10 words were obtained from Statements of Work
contained in five federal government RFPs and five state
government RFPs. The Statements of Work are specifi-
cations documents used by the bidders to prepare their
proposals. Few occurrences of the lexicon were expected
in these RFPs.
Ten sample texts were also obtained from
motivational sales textbooks (Baker and Phifer 1966;
Evered 1982; Gorman 1979; Peale 1967; Sheehan and
O'Toole 1985). Text samples were taken from chapters
concerning motivation and persuasion. The basis for
sample selection was the chapter headings. Samples were
taken from the beginning or ending of individual
sections depending on whether the amount of text in the
section contained at least 1000 words. These text
samples were expected to contain a larger number of
occurrences of the lexicon than was anticipated in both
the RFPs and technical proposals.
Results of computer searches conducted on these
twenty texts not only conformed to expectations but were
also used to establish a numerical range for the
Enthusiasm Index. The computer searches were conducted
using the methodology described earlier. Enthusiasm
Indexes were calculated for each sample; the numerical
means and standard deviations of the Els were then
determined for the RFP and the sales texts. Results of
these calculations appear in Table 2. The mean (X) and
standard deviation (s) values were calculated according
to formulas given in Tucker, et al. (1981). The
observed t value was calculated from formulas and
statistical tables described by Hamburg (1977).
To demonstrate that the means given in Table 2
can reasonably be used for the El value range, a t-test
was conducted to determine whether a significant
difference exists between the mean values. Using
Hamburg's method for a number of samples less than 30,
the critical t value at the 5% significance level for 18
degrees of freedom [ (n-j^ + n2) 2] is 2.101. Since the
observed t value, 4.38, exceeds the critical t value,
the null hypothesis is rejected and it can be concluded
that the mean values are indeed significantly different.
Summary of Computer Search Results
For RFPs and Sales Texts
Text File Occurrences El
RFP-1 2 2.0
RFP-2 0 0
RFP-3 0 0
RFP-4 1 1.0
RFP-5 1 1.0
RFP-6 3 3.0
RFP-7 1 1.0
RFP-8 1 1.0
RFP-9 2 2.0
RFP-10 0 0
Mean (X1) 1.10
Std. Dev. (sn) 0.99
No. of Samples (^l) 10
Text File Occurrences El
Lit-1 3 3.0
Lit-2 0 0
Lit-3 14 14.0
Lit-4 3 3.0
Lit-5 17 17.0
Lit-6 13 13.0
Lit-7 21 21.0
Lit-8 17 17.0
Lit-9 8 8.0
Lit-10 14 14.0
Mean (X2) 11.0
Std. Dev. (So) 7.09
No. of Samples (n2> 10
Observed t-test value (t) for
mean significant difference 4.38
The results of the t-test indicate that the probability
of a mean difference as large as 9.9 (X^ X2) occurring
as a result of error and/or chance alone is 5 in 100
(5%). This level of error is deemed acceptable for this
Results of searches conducted on the technical
proposal samples are presented in the next chapter.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
This chapter presents the results of the
computer searches conducted on the technical proposals
and summarizes the data obtained.
Fifteen technical proposals were obtained for
this study. The size of the documents varied with seven
proposals containing over 100 pages, five proposals
containing 50 to 100 pages, and three proposals
containing fewer than 50 pages. (The page counts given
include appendices and supporting documentation such as
resumes and required submittal forms.)
Computerized text files from the 15 technical
proposal were searched for occurrences of words from the
lexicon in Table 1. Occurrences found during the
searches were checked off on the Computer Search
Checklists and the number of times each word occurred
was also recorded. From these tabulations, the
Enthusiasm Indexes (El) for each proposal were
Proposal texts were divided into 1000 + 10 word
files for searching. Larger proposals were divided into
three files, medium-sized proposals into two files, and
the smallest into single files. Dividing the proposal
texts in this manner produced 35 files totaling slightly
more than 35,000 words.
The types of technical proposals searched and
the accompanying search results are presented in Table
3. The proposals are arranged according to their Els,
from highest to lowest. Enthusiasm Indexes ranged from
3 to 0. The mean El value (X3) was 1.46 with a standard
deviation (s3) of .90. A t-test for determining
significant difference with the nearest El mean in the
range (X^ for the RFPs; X2 for the sales texts) was also
conducted. The nearest mean was X^^ with a value 1.10.
The critical t value at the 5% significance level, for a
number of samples less than 30 with 23 degrees of
freedom, is 2.069. Because the observed t value, .963,
fails to exceed the critical t value, the null hypothe-
is should not be rejected and it can be concluded that
these mean El values are not significantly different.
The results of the t-test indicate that there are five
chances in a hundred that these results occurred by
random chance or error alone.
Further examination of the proposals show that
they can be divided into two categories: Social Sci-
ence/Humanities and Technical/Engineering. Additional
data was obtained by arranging the computer search re-
sults in this manner. The results for the two categor-
ies appear in Table 4.
Summary of Computer for Technical Search Results Proposals
No. 1. Type of Prooosal Advertising No. of Words 1000 No. of Word Occurrences 3 El Values 3.0
2. Arts (Film) 3000 8 2.7
3 . Soc. Research 3000 7 2.3
4. Soc. Research 3000 6 2.0
5. Chem. Research 3000 6 2.0
6. Soc. Research 2000 4 2.0
7. Soc. Research 3000 5 1.7
8. Env. Consult. 3000 4 1.3
9. Env. Consult. 2000 2 1.0
10. Prog. Audit 1000 1 1.0
11. Soc. Research 2000 2 1.0
12. Engineering 3000 2 0.7
13. Data Review 3000 2 0.7
14. Prog. Audit 2000 1 0.5
15. Chem. Research 1000 0 0
Mean Std. No. (*3) Dev. (s3) of Samples (n3) 1.46 .863 15
Observed t-test Value El Means X-^ (RFPs) and (t) for X3 (Proposals) .963
Summary of Computer Search Results
By Technical Proposal Type
Type of No. of El El
No. Proposal Words Values Values
1. Advertising 1000 3.0
2. Arts (film) 3000 2.7
3. Soc. Research 3000 2.3
4. Soc. Research 3000 2.0
6. Soc. Research 2000 2.0
7. Soc. Research 3000 1.7
11. Soc. Research 2000 1.0
5. Chem. Research 3000 2.0
8. Env. Consulting 3000 1.3
9. Env. Consulting 3000 1.0
10. Prog. Audit 1000 1.0
12. Engineering 3000 .7
13. Data Review 3000 .7
14. Prog. Audit 2000 .5
15. Chem. Research 1000 0
Means (X4)= 2.10 (X5)= 0.90
Std. Dev. (S4)= .658 (S5)= .590
No. of Samples (n4)= 7 (n5> 8
Observed t-test Values (t) for El
Means Compared to RFP El Mean 2.33 1.06
Observed t-test Value (t) for
El Means X4 and X5
A t-test performed on the mean El values for the
proposal categories resulted in an observed t value of
3.73. The critical t value for the test was 2.160, at a
significance level of 5% with 13 degrees of freedom,
indicating that there is a significant difference be-
tween the mean El values for these two proposal categor-
Two additional t-tests were performed to compare
the mean El values for the two proposal categories with
the mean El value for the RFPs. The observed t value
for the Social Science/Humanities category was 2.33.
The critical t value for this test was 2.131 at a
significance level of 5% with 15 degrees of freedom.
The results of the t-test indicate a significant
Results of the t-test for the Technical/Engi-
neering category yielded an observed t value of 1.06 and
a critical t value of 2.120, at a significance level of
5% with 16 degrees of freedom. These results show no
significant difference between the mean El values for
the RFPs and the Technical/Engineering proposals.
Occurrences of words from the lexicon that
appeared in the proposals are arranged by word form
(nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives) in Table 5.
Verb forms occurred more often than the noun and
adjective forms by a slight margin. No adverb forms
were found. The word, interest, occurred most
Occurrences of the Lexicon
by Word Form
No. of Total No.
Word Forms Occurrences of Occurrences
Adj ectives 17
frequently. No forms of the words avid, intrigue, and
inspire, were found.
The next chapter contains interpretation and
discussion of these results.
DISCUSSION OF THE RESULTS
This chapter describes the results of the study
in terms of general observations, specific findings, and
The research objectives for the study, stated in
Chapter IV, were achieved. A preliminary lexicon of
enthusiasm was proposed and used to conduct content
analyses of successful technical proposals. A method
was also proposed and validated for quantifying occur-
rences of the lexicon in the discourse of the proposals.
The method was rapid, easy to use, and provided compara-
tive data for analysis.
It was hypothesized that the style of discourse
contained in successful technical proposals is persua-
sive; and that one of the elements of persuasion present
would be enthusiasm, as manifested in a specific vocabu-
lary (lexicon) indicative of enthusiasm. The data
obtained from the computer searches, for the technical
proposals taken as a group, failed to support this hypo-
thesis. However, the results for the Social Science/
Humanities subset proved to be significantly different
from the RFPs. Thus, the Social Sciences/Humanities
proposals lend support to the hypothesis that successful
technical proposals contain occurrences of the lexicon
(to an extent sufficient to distinguish them from RFPs).
Examining a larger number of these types of proposals
and obtaining confirmatory results would provide a firm
basis for promoting the use of enthusiastic vocabulary
in technical proposals as a successful rhetorical
Although this study failed to demonstrate that
successful technical proposals as a whole contain a
significant number of occurrences of the lexicon as an
indicator of their enthusiasm, the results do suggest
additional research in this area. Vocabulary alone does
not capture other features of enthusiastic discourse,
for example, syntax construction and punctuation. Two
syntax construction and punctuation features that could
be added as variables to the Enthusiasm Index are occur-
rences of preliminary lexicon modifiers and exclamation
points. Examples of preliminary lexicon modifiers are
found on page 27 in the underlined portion of the first
Texas Instruments proposal excerpt and in the Selected
Proposal Concordance in Appendix C. Syntax construc-
tions such as extremely interested and very exciting
amplify, and call attention to, the occurrence of the
words interested and exciting. Exclamation points play
a similar role. Expanding the Enthusiasm Index to in-
elude these two additional variables would result in a
more comprehensive index that could improve the proposal
Comparison of the mean El values for the RFPs
and the technical proposals indicated that they were not
significantly different. The style and discourse aims
of these two kinds of documents appear to be different;
however, these differences cannot be demonstrated by
measuring occurrences of specific vocabulary alone.
Requests for Proposals were not anticipated to contain
the kind of persuasive discourse that would be expected
in technical proposals. However, preparers of RFPs
could argue that, although the aim of RFPs is not neces-
sarily persuasive, their purpose is to encourage firms
to bid on the work requested. This intention could
account for the similarity in the mean El values of the
RFPs and the proposals.
Dividing the proposals into the Social Science/
Humanities, and Technical/Engineering categories yielded
two additional mean El values. The mean El value for
the Social Science/Humanities category shows a signifi-
cant difference at the 5% level of significance from the
RFPs. This result supports the study hypothesis and
provides preliminary evidence for concluding that usage
of enthusiastic vocabulary in Social Science/Humanities
technical proposals submitted to government agencies
contributes to success. However, these results were
drawn from a sample of only seven proposals. Studying a
larger number of Social Science/ Humanities proposals
and finding similar, or higher, El values would not only
provide additional evidence to confirm this conclusion,
but would warrant promoting the inclusion of enthusi-
astic vocabulary in technical proposals as one element
leading to success.
No significant difference in mean El values
between the Technical/Engineering proposals and RFPs was
Comparing the results of the two categories
indicates that a significant difference exists between
their El values. It would appear that Social Science/
Humanities proposals are more enthusiastic than Tech-
nical/Engineering proposals using only the number of
occurrences of enthusiastic vocabulary as a measure. A
number of factors could account for this result, such as
differences in the writers' backgrounds and training,
differences in accepted writing styles between the two
disciplines (social versus physical sciences), and how
well acquainted the proposal writers from the two groups
were with their respective proposal evaluation teams.
Follow-up research in this area would be useful for
identifying factors that may influence different writing
styles between disciplines.
The occurrences of the lexicon, arranged by word
form (Table 4), had an interesting spread. The numbers
of occurrences were almost evenly distributed between
the noun, verb, and adjective forms, with no occurrences
of the adverb forms. From Sandell's earlier work in
this area, adjective forms were expected to dominate.
Although he drew this conclusion from results of anal-
yses of newspaper articles and magazine advertisements,
a similar trend in the occurrences of the lexicon was
also expected. The trend was not present in the number
of occurrences; however, it was present in the extent of
the adjective word forms used. Eight different adjec-
tive forms were found compared to five verb forms and
only four noun forms. How to interpret this phenomenon
is unclear without obtaining additional data for other
stylistic variables which may also be present.
The preliminary list of words proposed
for the lexicon, interesting, desire, eager, exciting,
and enthusiasm, were all found in the technical proposal
texts examined. Use of such words obviously does not
preclude success of a proposal; however, the writers of
the proposals studied appeared to be reserved in their
use of these words. Not finding a larger number of
occurrences could also be attributed to the sampling
process. For example, the cover letters were not
included in the proposal text samples; including the
cover letter texts in the proposal samples may have
improved the El values. Cover letters are used to
transmit formally the proposals to the sponsoring
agencies and may be the first thing potential clients
read. Thus, cover letters provide an appropriate place
to include enthusiastic discourse that might not other-
wise appear in the proposal. Cover letter samples were
not included in this study for two reasons: (1) the
ones obtained contained fewer than 1000 words, and (2)
cover letters were not provided with all the proposals.
The sampling methodology would need to be modified for
future studies to incorporate these smaller size text
samples into the search process.
The utility of the study method looks promising
for future work. Incorporating additional stylistic
features of enthusiasm into the Enthusiasm Index would
enhance this measure for evaluating technical proposals
and possibly other literature forms. This study also
demonstrates that statistical analyses of writing can
yield useful data, whether or nor not such data supports
a particular hypothesis. More of this kind of research
data is needed to further our understanding of the na-
ture of technical writing and its relationship to other
kinds of writing.
This study was also useful for developing and
promoting more prescriptive writing tools for technical
writers. Proposal writers who would like to add more
enthusiasm to their proposals may refer to the Selected
Proposal Concordance included in Appendix C. The con-
cordance lists a number of excerpts from the technical
proposals examined that show some of the syntactical
constructions possible for the words in the lexicon.
Such concordances are useful for providing writers with
ideas and examples they can use to enhance their writing
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The primary conclusion reached from the results
of this study is that the technical proposals as a whole
did not exhibit the level of enthusiastic vocabulary
(based solely on the preliminary lexicon developed)
needed to promote enthusiasm as a element of successful
proposal writing. Although the mere presence of such
vocabulary did not hinder success of the proposals, a
claim that it has a contributory effect on the whole
cannot be made either.
Arranging the proposals into Social Science/
Humanities and Technical/Engineering subsets showed sta-
tistically that the Social Science/Humanities proposals
had a significant difference in occurrences of enthusi-
astic vocabulary from the Technical/Engineering
proposals and the RFPs. While this result supports the
contention that enthusiastic vocabulary is present to a
significant extent in successful technical proposals,
what is not known is the extent of the role it played in
One way of determining the extent to which
enthusiastic language operates as a persuasive factor in
the success of a proposal, all other factors being
equal, would involve studying both the winning and los-
ing proposals from the same bidding competitions. The
highest scoring proposals in the present study were
those from the Social Sciences/Humanities category.
This result suggests that a study of winning and losing
proposals from the social sciences and humanities
disciplines may be a useful starting place. Such
research is recommended for developing more clearly
prescriptive proposal writing strategies.
A secondary conclusion drawn from this study is
that measuring vocabulary occurrence alone may not
adequately capture the presence of a particular style of
writing. However, the study results do show that mea-
sures of vocabulary occurrence are useful indicators for
determining whether a particular style characteristic
such as enthusiasm is present. Such measures may be
enhanced by incorporating additional stylistic variables
into the computerized search methodologies. A recom-
mendation for further research is to develop a basis for
including occurrences of style variables such as
modifiers and punctuation in the computer search
routines. Incorporating additional variables into the
Enthusiasm Index would result in a multidimensional
measure which may be better able to capture enthusiasm
in a more comprehensive manner.
Although the overall results of the study did
not support the posited hypothesis, the methodology
employed was judged to be useful for conducting content
analyses like those performed for this study. The
computer search routine was rapid, easy-to-use, and
produced usable data. The validation process indicated
that meaningful indices can be produced for measuring
stylistic variables in technical writing. Usability of
such indices may be enhanced through further investi-
gations of stylistic variables that may be measured in
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University of Colorado at Denver
Department of Communication and English
1200 Larimer Street
Campus Box 175
Denver, Colorado 80204-5300
This Confidentiality Agreement pertains to the handling and release of material contained in
technical proposals. The technical proposals listed in Attachment I have been provided by
__________________________of___________________________________________for use in a study
sponsored by the University of Colorado at Denver, Department of Communication and English.
The purpose of the study is to examine the language style of the discourse employed in die
rhetoric of technical proposals. The treatment of language style is primarily concerned with
exploring the language of enthusiasm and how it is manifested in technical proposals submitted
to government agencies. Keith Wegner is the principal investigator for this weak. Dr. Charles
Beck is the chairman of the committee overseeing the study.
The terms of this agreement are as follows:
a. All technical proposal material provided to the principal investigator will be used only far
this study and no other purpose.
b. All technical proposal material will be returned at the conclusion of the study in the same
condition it was received. No markings, writings, or alterations mil be made on any of the
c. All technical proposal material will be maintained at the private residence of the principal
investigator and will not be released or distributed without the expressed written consent of
the provider of the material.
d. Certain portions of the technical proposal material provided will be copied and
electronically reproduced for computerized analysis of language. (Part c. above also applies
to this material.) After two years from completion of the study, this material will be
disposed of by erasing the electronic storage media and shredding the paper copies.
e. Titles of technical proposals and names of submitting firms will not be identified in die
study. Specific proposals will be referred to by numerical codes.
In grateful acknowledgement of your support of this study, the principal investigator further
agrees to provide you a copy of the completed thesis report. Completion of the report is planned
for May 1989.
Keith A. Wegner Date
5856 Parfet Court
Arvada, Colorado 80004
University of Colorado at Denver
1051 Ninth Street
Denver, Colorado 80202
University of Colorado at Denver
Department of Communication and English
1200 Larimer Street
Campos Box 173
Denver, Colorado 80204-3300
The technical proposals listed below were provided for this study.
Computer Search Checklist
COMPUTER SEARCH CHECKLIST
File Name_____________________ Date
Avid Found 0 Not Found
Avidly Found 0 Not Found
Concern Found 0 Not Found
Concerns Found 0 Not Found
Concerned (v) Found 0 Not Found
Concerned (ad7) Found 0 Not Found
Concerning Found 0 Not Found
Desire Found 0 Not Found
Desires (n,pl) Found 0 Not Found
Desires (v) Found 0 Not Found
Desired Found 0 Not Found
Desiring Found 0 Not Found
Desirable Found 0 Not Found
Desirably Found 0 Not Found
Desirableness Found 0 Not Found
Desirability Found 0 Not Found
Desirous Found 0 Not Found
Desirousness Found 0 Not Found
Desirously Found 0 Not Found
Eager Found 0 Not Found
Eagerness Found 0 Not Found
Eagerly Found 0 Not Found
Enthusiasm Found 0 Not Found
Enthusiastic Found 0 Not Found
Enthusiastically Found 0 Not Found
Excite Found 0 Not Found
Excites Found 0 Not Found
Excited (v) Found 0 Not Found
Excited (adj) Found 0 Not Found
Excitement Found 0 Not Found
Excitedly Found 0 Not Found
Exciting (v) Found 0 Not Found
Exciting (adj) Found 0 Not Found
Inspire Found 0 Not Found
Inspires Found 0 Not Found
Inspired Found 0 Not Found
Inspiring Found 0 Not Found
Inspiration Found 0 Not Found
Inspirational Found 0 Not Found
Inspirationally Found 0 Not Found
Interest Found 0 Not Found
Interests (n,pl) Found 0 Not Found
Interests (v) Found 0 _ Not Found 0
Interested (v) Found 0 _ Not Found 0
Interested (adj) Found 0 _ Not Found 0
Interestedly Found 0 Not Found 0
Interestedness Found 0 Not Found 0
Interestingly Found 0 Not Found 0
Interesting (v) Found 0 Not Found 0
Interesting (adj) Found 0 _ Not Found 0
Intrigues Found 0 _ Not Found 0
Intrigued Found 0 _ Not Found 0
Intriguing Found 0 Not Found 0
Selected Proposal Concordance
SELECTED PROPOSAL CONCORDANCE
...a pressing national concern...
We will consult with [ ] concerning the start date.
...concerning the most effective means...
...provide conclusions concerning...
...both appropriate and desirable.
...and desires of the users.
...achieve the desired results.
...producing the desired results.
...is eager to take advantage of the opportunity...
We are also enthusiastic about...
...our enthusiasm for the account...
...is enthusiastic about the prosect of...
...is excited about the opportunity...
...is an exciting, interesting, and useful work product.
...this is very exciting.
...and express interesting attitudes about..
It would be interesting to explore...
For example, interesting patterns in developing...
...materials of particular interest...
...cases where particularly interesting products...
...directly attributed to the increased interest in...
...is an exciting, interesting, and useful work product.
...we are particularly interested in...
...we have an abiding interest in...
... of considerable interest...
Of special interest are...
...can invite other interested parties...