I am writing a formal work proposal, and I have a question about how to list the items in the index of my proposal. Because English is not my first language (Spanish is), I'd like some help making sure I index these correctly.

For example, in my index, should I use:

  • Description of the project or Project Description
  • Benefits of this proposal or Proposal benefits
  • Preliminary schedule of the project or just Preliminary schedule

Are there any rules or guidelines that would help me know the best way to set up my index for entries that could be listed in more than one way?

  • thanks for help me, sorry so where can I ask you this question?
    – beth
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 0:54
  • 1
    Hi beth, welcome to ELL. Proofreading is Off Topic here, and you're getting quite close to that. But all your specifics are all essentially asking about the same thing, so it's "just about" okay. The answer is most Anglophones would use the short forms for section headings in a work proposal such as this. It's a summary for busy people, not an essay. Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 0:54
  • 1
    beth: I've taken the liberty to rewrite the question in a way that would be a better fit for this community, yet still give you the answers you need. Feel free to re-edit or leave a comment if you think I've missed the core of your question.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 1:10
  • 1
    @beth: I agree with what J.R. said about those "general rules", but I don't think your question is quite "Off Topic", because you're only really asking one thing: Is it okay to use short "ungrammatical" forms for section headings in a business proposal? So what I'm saying is: feel free to ask about specific items here, but be careful to avoid posting a long complex sentence and asking Does this sound okay? Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 1:14
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers: ...and some of my own as well. I just hope I got the gist of the question correct.
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 1:19

4 Answers 4


Risking to express a controversial opinion, I would say that technical documentation has slightly different priorities than normal texts. Being in I.T., I read and write tons of technical papers, and I always prefer readability and text size versus formal grammar.

Think for a moment, your reader is often a non-native speaker as well, but, most certainly, they are a busy person. Overuse of large grammar constructs may just increase the size of your writing, without adding any value.

No, I don't say your document should be ungrammatical. Instead, it must be based on keywords, the shorter the better (unlike my answer :-)
Let's review individual phrases (I took those from your original edit):

  • Description of the Project vs. Project Description — are you really sure that project is strongly necessary? If you leave just Description, wouldn't it make your documentation more succinct? I think, it would; There's also special terms, purpose and abstract to denote sections containing verbose description of a project and its rationale;
  • Justification of the project — I wouldn't use justification at all. It has several meanings, and you may confuse your reader. Alternatively, it may be review, analysis, or clarification, depending on the context;
  • Definition of the scope of the project — there's a term, Scope of Work;
  • Bounding of the projects — use Special Requirements or Dependencies instead;
  • Benefits of this proposal — just a keyword, benefits, seems to be sufficient (indeed, if not of this proposal, of what then?);
  • Competitive Advantages — it's a term by itself, stick to it;
  • Deliverables of the projectDeliverables and Artifacts are standard terms;
  • Preliminary schedule of this project — just schedule. Everyone understands that it your schedule is proposed, therefore it is subject for change, and, because of that, is preliminary;


  • thanks for answer If I want to say Aims of the project, it is ok?
    – beth
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 3:23
  • @beth Aims usually refers roles, where people belonging to each role have their own goals or aims. In a general descriptive context ("what problem this project is intended to solve?"), Problem Statement sounds better to me. In addition to my answer, I would suggest googling for a terminology in your particular area of interest. Also, definitely look for some questions at PM.SE. Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 3:35
  • I think that aims is like objectives but more formal, so better user objectives or goal or problem statement?
    – beth
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 3:45
  • @beth Your mileage may vary, and it highly depends on your business area. In I.T., I avoid using aims due to the reasons I mentioned above (too vague if an acting party/role is undefined). Others use it extensively. Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 3:51

As a general rule, for section headers, I would favor the briefer forms, such as: Project Description, Project Justification, Project Scope, Benefits, Project Deliverables, Preliminary Schedule, etc.

In an actual sentence, though, either form could be used; for example, either "Here is the preliminary schedule for this project" or "Here is the project's preliminary schedule" would be acceptable.

In an index, you need to take a best guess as to which word the readers will look for when they want to find the information. I would avoid starting any index entry with "Project", as your index would be flooded with entries under the letter P. Instead, I would use a form like this:

Deliverables for the project
Schedule for the project, detailed
Schedule for the project, preliminary

It's not uncommon for an index to list multiple forms for an entry, but usually the page number is only given in one place (this makes the index easier to maintain should new information be added). So, you might consider using something like this, if you feel it would enhance the usability of the index:

Project Deliverables: see Deliverables for the project

  • thanks for answer If I want to say Aims of the project, it is ok?
    – beth
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 3:24
  • In the context of a formal proposal, I think Objectives would be a better word than Aims, and I'd usually phrase it as Project Objectives rather than Objectives of the Project (although, in the index, I'd simply use Objectives). You could always add an entry in your index that says "Aims: see Objectives", too)
    – J.R.
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 8:52

Use the simpler forms whenever they are unambiguous. If it's a pair like project description, you're fine. But take Project computer maintenance: Projecting the maintenance of the computer? Maintenance of the project computer? Computer-aided maintenance of the project? Projecting computer-aided maintenance?

The longer forms are more unambiguous, so always use them whenever the shorter forms can be read more than one way.


If the entire document refers to a single project, the use of 'project' throughout the document will seem redundant.

So your document could have the title of 'Project Proposal' and your index, or table of contents, could contain elements like 'Description', 'Scope', 'Roles', 'Deliverables', and so on.

There is an example here that talks about a particular organization's document style guidelines. It also provides a primary example as is devided into several sections with bold labels. In this example, the writer refers to 'Headings/Subheadings' as opposed to 'Document Headings/Subheadings' as all the items in this document refer to 'Document' guidelines.

I hope this helps.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .