I just finished reading about 10 final drafts that were written by students in a master’s program. Although they were not grant proposals, I was reminded of a few simple techniques that you can use to make sure your proposal is ready to be submitted. Here they are:
1. Don’t forget to use spell check. If you’re working at the very last minute, it is easy to forget this one simple action you should always take before you submit your proposal. Spell-checking is especially important if you have been doing a lot of last-minute editing and revising of your proposal. A good rule of thumb is to perform spell check one last time before you print the final copy of every proposal.
2. Don’t rely solely on spell check. If you have used the wrong word, but you have spelled it correctly, spell check is not going to help you. Here are a few humorous examples of words I have seen in grant proposals that were spelled right but used incorrectly: (1) “Curse” instead of “course,” (2) “leering” instead of “learning,” (3) “lender” instead of “leader,” and (4) “faucet” instead of “facet.” To pick up these kinds of mistakes, read your proposal out loud. Hopefully, this will force you to read the words that actually appear on paper, rather than the words you thought you typed as you were writing.
3. Use grammar check. One of the worst mistakes proposal writers can make is to write grammatically incorrect sentences–which doesn’t do much for your credibility as a potential grantee. Use your word processor’s grammar-check feature to make sure this doesn’t happen.
4. Check to see if there is a phrase that you overuse in your writing and that needs to be removed entirely. If you are reading your proposal out loud, as suggested above, you should be able to pick up these phrases to determine which ones need to be deleted.
5. Look carefully for the overuse of jargon. Like many disciplines, education is full of catch phrases that are popular among educators, but can be a mystery to people who are not educators. Do not assume that every reviewer of your proposals will be an educator, even if you’re submitting proposals to education-related funders. Cut down on the use of jargon, and write in a manner that can be understood by any individual who reads your proposal.
6. Make sure you don’t contradict yourself in your proposal. If, for example, you identify a factor that has had a negative impact on student achievement in the early part of your narrative, be sure to stick with this throughout the entire proposal, rather than downplaying its impact later on in a different section.
7. Include enough time in your proposal development timeline to put your proposal away for a day or so before you print the final copy to be submitted. This will help you to look at the proposal with “fresh eyes” and pick up the kinds of mistakes I have discussed above.
8. Create a small circle of trusted advisors who will look at your proposal and provide unbiased comments. At least one of these individuals should have excellent writing and/or proofreading skills.