It may sound like we’re stating the obvious, but one thing grant writers need to be diligent about is the proper use of grammar and punctuation in their writing. Obvious errors are one of the common complaints from grant reviewers we talk to. Such errors could immediately put you at a loss or disadvantage with a grant reviewer – and it’s not hard to remedy before you submit, but hard to recover from afterwards.
In this blog, we discuss a few of the most common grammar and punctuation errors. Perhaps showcasing these basic rules will make you more aware of how you use them and freshen your minds on how to use them properly. And remember, if you want an expert set of eyes to proofread your grant application, we are here to help you. Just contact a grant helper to get started.
Common Grant Writing Errors:
1) Spelling – Even with spell check on nearly every word processing program, people still make spelling errors. Maybe in celebration of finishing a document, we forget to use spell check, but more often, spelling errors aren’t caught by a spell checker because the misspelled word is not “misspelled,” but rather, it’s the wrong word for the context. Autocorrect options make such errors even harder to detect.
Incorrect example: The Grant Helpers is here to help you in all steppes of the grant writing process.
Steppes is a word meaning prairies or grasslands, but here the word we are looking for is steps. This is an example of something a spell checker would not catch. The lesson here is to remember to use the spell check feature, but also remember to read your document closely to look for misused words, and to have a fresh set of eyes look it over as well.
2) Commas (,) vs. Semicolons (;) – Use commas when connecting two independent clauses (sets of words that can be their own sentence) with a connecting word, or conjunction (and, but, or). Semicolons also connect two independent clauses but do not use connecting words.
I will be going to the store, but I am not stopping at the post office.
I will be going to the store; I will also stop at the post office.
Commas can also be used in a list.
Correct example: His favorite colors were red, blue, green, and yellow.
Semicolons are also used in lists, but this usually happens when the lists themselves contain commas.
Choose from fries, salad, or soup.
Choose from fries, baked potato, or mashed potato; garden salad, Cesar salad, or soup; and juice, milk, or a soft drink.
3) Colons (:) – Use a colon to extend a sentence, set off a list, or to introduce a bulleted list. A colon should be used when the idea before it and after it are related.
There were two choices: watch a movie or go bowling. (extends sentence and is a list)
(See the colon after “For Example” above for an example of introducing a bulleted list.)
4) It’s and Its – It’s means it is or it has. However, its is the possessive form of it.
Correct example: Where is its chew toy? It’s under the couch!
When finished writing your grant, it is highly recommended to have another set of eyes review your work to ensure your work is error-free. You will lose credibility if you turn in an error-laden piece of writing that is requesting funding, especially if those errors may seem minor. The Grant Helpers can offer expert assistance throughout all aspects of the grant writing process, and we have expert grammarians and English majors who can help with proofreading your grant materials. Contact us or respond to this blog to ask a question for free. You can also contact us for a free quote on a specific project.
Image Credit: the Italian voice