I’ve always thought of writing like painting a picture, whether writing a fun creative story, an article for the local newspaper, or a grant application. These seven basic tips are core ideas that I’ve relied on for years, no matter what I’m working on. They help me start painting and cleaning up my written picture. Hopefully they’ll help you too!
1. Writing an application should not happen in one or two marathon sessions.
Work on one section at a time and take breaks. If you try to do the whole thing in one sitting, you may get overwhelmed and lose your focus and enthusiasm.
2. Don’t censor yourself.
Let the words flow out, then go back to edit.
3. Get rid of lazy words.
Look for sentence filler words like “that”, “very”, “just” and “the”. Delete or replace those words whenever possible and clean up your sentences. After you’ve cleared those out, do a quick run through and try to spot words that you may have used three or four times. Get out your thesaurus and find some suitable replacement words. Mix it up!
4. Choose statistics and cite research versus making general statements.
For example, if you are seeking to fund a human services program, stating “according to the 2010 Census, 33.5% of single parent households in Our City are under the poverty level” is much more compelling than “there are a significant number of households under the poverty level”. Read through your application a few times to pick out any general statements. Just because something seems obvious does not mean that it’s obvious to the grant reviewer. You must take the time to back up your statements with hard data.
5. Write with an active voice.
First, it’s easier to read and comprehend. You don’t want the reader to struggle! Second, it sends a subconscious message to the grant reviewer that you are an active organization and are ready to take action on the program you are proposing. A passive voice gives the impression that you’re merely thinking about launching or continuing this program.
6. Read and re-read your writing out loud.
You will be amazed at how awkward some sentences sound when you speak them aloud. Use this exercise to clean up the flow of your sentences, both within the sentence itself and between sentences and paragraph transitions.
7. Allow yourself plenty of time to write drafts and polish the final application.
You may also need a little time to locate compelling research and/or statistics (see tip 2). On the other hand, a deadline is a powerful motivator. Set a firm date with another person in your organization to review and discuss the final application (assuming your organization doesn’t have a grant committee). This date should be at least ten days prior to the application deadline, allowing you time for changes, adjustments, and unforeseen events.