When You Write Grants, Focus on the Basics

Writing effective proposals is a deceptively difficult task.  Writing is grammar, punctuation, syntax, and organization, and it also is the ability to convey concepts, ideas, and processes clearly and effectively.  No wonder it is so difficult to do well!

Patricia Kent, a Proposal Manager for TechTeam Government Solutions, has six basic concepts for writing effective proposals that grant proposal professionals should heed.  According to her, your writing should concentrate on both fundamental physical and mental tasks to be effective:

  • Focus:  concentrate on your plan and how to execute your writing assignments.
  • Purpose:  understand the rationale behind your writing assignments.  Appeal to your readers’ intellect and sense of purpose to facilitate the reviewer’s decision-making processes.
  • Meaning:  translate the purpose of your writing accurately and clearly to convey meaning.
  • Substance:  make sure that you can prove or substantiate what you convey.  Your major themes should have proof (demonstrable features) to convey their benefits.
  • Structure:  use a clear structure to write your proposals and your proposals should have a visible structure so that reviewers can understand your points easily.  You should create flow, consistency, balance, and clarity in your writing to convey structure effectively.
  • Clarity:  tell a lucid and compelling story by using a writing style that is clear and easy to understand.  Start with the Executive Summary and keep the reviewers’ attention to the last paragraph.

As Kent points out, there are writing basics that go far beyond grammar and punctuation.  Of course, you must get these right, but persuasive grant proposals help reviewers understand your focus, purpose, meaning, substance, and the structure of your argument.

In other words, good proposals are well-written both in terms of form and content.

Reviewers always are put off by grammatical mistakes and sloppy and vapid prose.  They also are put off by proposals that lack clarity, organization, and focus.  Address form and content in your prose and you will improve the competitiveness of your grant proposals.

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