Grant Services - Advice and Tips

Tips on Using "Plain Writing" in Grant Writing

Tue, Dec 11, 2012 @ 15:12 PM / by Alisyn Franzen

Do you remember ever reading a document to find yourself struggling to keep up with its complex language? Now imagine a proposal reviewer eyeing a thick stack of documents and a cooling coffee mug in the late afternoon. What is going to appeal to that reviewer?

In 2010, President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act of 2010. This piece of legislation requires the federal government to write in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner. Writing “plainly” would be a good practice for all, especially when applying for a grant. We have grant experts who can help you secure more grant money by making sure that your writing is at its best. Here are some tips we keep in mind to help ensure the use of “plain writing:”

  • Write for the average reader. Have several people, each from various levels of education or whose professions vary, review your writing – especially the summary (see blog post “Writing Powerful Grant Summaries and Grant Abstracts: Tips and Hints”). Ask them to bring to your attention any terms or phrases that they do not understand. Once the difficult language has been identified, see if it is alterable.

  • Define terms upfront. Some level of technical language will likely be necessary in certain documents. For example, in an environmental research grant, the general population may not understand what beta particles means. For the general reader, provide a brief, maybe even parenthetical, explanation of such terms when they are first introduced. Grant Writing   Plain Writing

  • Don’t sacrifice technical rigor. After you have provided sufficient overviews for the general reader, use technical terms and details in later sections to satisfy those with a need to know such information, and the ability to understand it. But don’t spout technical jargon just to sound knowledgeable. Your technical explanations must support the central arguments of the proposal.

  • Organize documents appropriately. Place the most important points towards the beginning of the document. Keep less important points and greater technical detail for later sections. This will bring what’s most important to the forefront, just in case the reader starts paying less attention or skips the latter portions of writing altogether.

  • Use headings. Headings naturally assist readers in organizing information. Headings also help people quickly identify which section reviewers need to go to in order to skim or scan for specific information.

  • Use familiar words and get rid of excess words. Simpler, familiar words will allow readers to focus on your content instead of trying to figure out what your content means. Eliminating excess words gets right to the meaning, so question whether or not you need every word. Watch for words like really, very, and other “extra” modifiers.

Plain language will allow grant reviewers to focus on the meaning of your proposal, supporting documents, and the importance of the project you are trying to fund. We can perform a proposal review for language at a reasonable rate. See our list of services. We have experts who can make sure your application is at its best. Contact a grant expert today for a free quote.


Image credit: Steve A. Johnson, Steve Johnson

Topics: grant services, grant application hints, grant formatting, grant writing help, professional grant writers, grant editing, grant writing, Grant Writing Tips, grant application tips, grant formatting tips, grant formatting hints, plain writing

Alisyn Franzen

Written by Alisyn Franzen

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