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Do You Know How to Write A Grant Proposal Clearly? (Part 2)

Grant writing is an acquired skill, and writing clearly is a critical component of a grant writer’s skill set. To become a good grant writer it’s absolutely necessary to embrace the importance of presenting a project in clear language that’s easy to read and understand.

In last week’s blog, we discussed five of 10 basic writing tips that help you write clearly so your grant proposal receives a higher score and has a greater chance of getting funded. Today’s blog will cover tips six through 10.

  1. Avoid jargon. Never assume proposal readers are knowledgeable about your work, the problem you’re writing about, or your topic. A pitfall some grant writers fall into is using jargon, or special words or expressions that are commonly used by a particular profession. Like, for instance, if you are writing a proposal for your child’s school and use a term like brain-based learning, massive open online courses, or flipped classrooms, you must explain its meaning the first time you use it. One way to make sure your proposal isn’t too technical is to ask someone unfamiliar with your work to read it. If he/she doesn’t understand what you’re trying to convey, you need to either cut down on the jargon (if you’re able to do so), or define it better.
  2. Use familiar words, as well as the shortest form of a word. This is another tip that’s helpful when writing online proposals. Many grant writers cringe at facing the online proposal that limits how much you can write, but it does force you to be clear and concise. Why use the word “utilize” when “use” expresses the same meaning? You don’t need to impress the reviewer with long words or obscure words that send them to the dictionary to understand your meaning! Trust me, they’ll be much more impressed if you use simpler language in a clear, well-written narrative.
  3. Avoid “extra” words. This tip ties into keeping your sentences short. Examples of extra words are:
    1. Don’t write this: In consideration of the fact that research indicates boys develop socially more slowly than girls, …
    2. Don’t even write this: Given the fact that research indicates boys develop socially more slowly than girls, …
    3. Do condense your number of words like this: Because research indicates boys develop socially more slowly than girls, … A simple “because” is a better alternative.
  1. Use bullets, subheadings, and white space. All of these techniques force you to organize the important points in your proposal. A well-organized, succinct proposal makes a reader’s job of reviewing a proposal much easier. With a proposal that incorporates bullets, subheadings, and white space, the reader can quickly scan the proposal and more quickly grasp key concepts.
  2. Never assume a proposal reader will refer back to a previous section of your proposal. As I’ve often said, your job is to make the proposal reader’s job as easy as possible. If you ask the reader to refer back to a previous section, you’re making his/her job harder than it should be, and that’s not good. There’s no need to say, “As I mentioned previously.” If you want to repeat a concept because it’s important, that’s fine, but avoid those needless words that may break the reader’s chain of thought.

As a bonus tip, it’s always a good idea to know the grade level of your writing. A good one-page resource for you, if you aren’t familiar with how to find this information, is How to Measure the Grade Level of Your Document. This resource provides directions for finding the grade level of a document for Microsoft Word Mac 2008 and 2011, as well as for Microsoft Word PC 2003 and 2007. If you’re a visual learner and use a Mac, you might want to watch a YouTube video on this subject, which you can find here. If you use a PC with Microsoft Word 2010 and want to watch a YouTube video on finding the reading level of a document, go here.

If you’ve been following Grantmamas for a while, you’ve undoubtedly heard me say more than once… your writing must be clear, concise, and compelling. These 10 tips will help you create a proposal that’s clear – one that’s easy for a reviewer to read and understand. And there’s even an added benefit to using these tips… they also make it much easier for you to write clear online proposals that have word or character limits!

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2 Comments
  1. Excellent advice! As a grant reader-turned-writer I found myself saying “yes!” after each point.

    • Thanks Adrienne! If you have any additional tips we might have missed please feel free to add them here. We really appreciate your feedback.

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