The Golden Rules of Grant Writing

Good writing creates content that people want to read, and it’s remembering that actual people will be reading your grant that will set you apart.

But what does that mean? 

1. Say what you mean and stop when you have said it.

No one has ever said “their message was clear, succinct, understandable and I could easily see what their grant funding would be spent on. But I just wish they’d sounded fancier, used more jargon, had longer sentences and padded out their response with irrelevant information.”

Read the question, and answer the question fully. Then stop.

Your response is one of many the assessor needs to read, and reviewing grants is often an additional duty for assessors, and therefore conducted either outside of their work hours or around their regular roles. They will be grateful if you respond clearly and simply to the question, then stop. 

stop writing Gold Standard.jpg

2. It helps to pretend you’re writing to a friend who knows something about your research. 

Assume grant assessors are educated novices – they know enough about your area to understand accepted terminology, but they are not as expert as you are about what you have to offer. This means you don’t need to explain basic concepts but you need to clearly explain how or what you will do.

Use simple and straightforward language and use verbs: if you’re asking for money to do something, it helps to use ‘doing words’ that actually mean something.

Be specific. Using words such as ‘facilitation’ and ‘optimisation’ create unnecessary ambiguity. Both are words that don’t mean anything without an explanation. We always ask people what they mean by each of these terms. Every single time we find they use those exact words instead. 

3. Formatting counts

Don’t underestimate the power of white space on a page. Long blocks of writing, even if strictly correct paragraphing rules have been used, fills readers with trepidation even before they start reading. Remember, your reader is a human being. Do you want your reader to be anticipating something negative before they start on your application? 

Long blocks of text also hide detail. People pay the most attention to the first and last sentences of a paragraph, so putting all the juicy detail in the middle of a long paragraph block just hides your brilliance. 

Don't underestimate the power of white space on a page. 

Don't underestimate the power of white space on a page. 

4. Only remove words at the final read through

Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off
— Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel said “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”. Grant writing rarely has much cross-over with fashion, but this statement holds up. 

The final read through is your chance to delete those words you have used way too often, where your sentences just don’t sound right, and where you have said the same thing more than once. You can see where you may need to add another paragraph or where long sentences can become shorter and clearer. 

If you add content at your final read through, it’s not your final read through! 

Happy grant writing from the Gold Standard Team.

If you would like assistance with writing your next grant feel free to contact us.  

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