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How to write a successful academic grant application

Grant Writing

Editors can wear many hats. Sara Scharf dons a grant-writing hat, especially in the fall. She sees a great many applications and she has a few tips, which she has kindly given BoldFace permission to share from her blog.

 

I’ve been editing a lot of grant applications lately. To borrow from Tolstoy, good grant applications all have several things in common, but there are many, many different ways for grant applications to be bad. Here are some tips to help you succeed in applying for grants.

The number one thing that successful grant applications have in common is that they follow the directions. Most granting agencies have many applicants for a limited pool of resources. Don’t let your application get screened out early for failing to follow directions. It’s about respect: if you can’t even be bothered to submit what the instructions call for, the reviewers will have less reason to believe that you’ll use the grant money appropriately. Beyond showing basic respect by following the directions, be kind to your reviewers. Make your application easy to read and easy to understand so they will focus on your content. Here’s how:

Layout tips

Even if there is no minimum font size specified, use a font size of at least 10 points – even in figures – to make your text easy to read. Don’t play with the spacing, margins, line height or paper size, either. Reviewers see many applications and will notice when something about the layout is unusual. Giving reviewers more to read when they’re already swamped with applications is not a way to stay on their good side. But there are still ways to use the space you have to maximum effect.

All grant applications have limits of some kind on how much writing should go in each section. Page limits and word limits are pretty unambiguous. Character limits usually crop up when submission through specific types of digital forms is required. Many of these forms count spaces as characters. Maximize the amount of text available by using only one space between sentences. (Two spaces between sentences is a hangover from the days of typewriters and not a habit that holds up well now). Make sure there are no extra spaces by searching for and replacing “ ” (two spaces, no quotation marks) with a single space. Check that there are no stray spaces at the end of paragraphs. (more…)