Writing with Authority

An assertive writing tone can instill a grant maker’s confidence in an applicant’s ability to carry out a grant program. While one can assume an organization may not be able to conduct a project without securing the grant, a grant writer should prepare the proposal as though it is not a matter of conducting the project if the grant maker approves it, but rather, when the source approves it.

A confident style of writing comes through in two easy techniques: (1) using assertive–positive and decisive– language, and (2) presenting accurate and consistent information throughout the proposal.

(1) Use assertive –positive and decisive– language

  • State the goal along with measurable objectives. Include numbers, statistics, dates, and other data that demonstrate the organization has set the course for the project. Show that a plan is in place to conduct a successful project.
  • Avoid using words like possibly, might, likely, may, and could. Replace them with direct language that conveys the applicant will achieve its objectives. For example,
    • The project will begin January 1 versus the project is likely to begin January 1.
    • A lead physician, registered nurse, and office manager will operate the project versus project personnel may include a lead physician, registered nurse, and office manager.

  • Eliminate the word “hope” in a grant proposal and include it only as the name of the project or organization. Instead of saying the organization hopes to raise $10,000, lay out the organization’s plan to raise $10,000.
  • Avoid using the phrase “if you give us the grant.” Write under the assumption you will get the grant.
  • Avoid using words such as very, great, greatly, and many when describing the problem or need for the project. Quote statistics, demographics, and other data to substantiate the “great need of very many clients.”
  • Commit to solid service numbers and budget figures. Grant makers understand organizations estimate the number of people the project will serve during the grant period and that they are including projected budgets in the application. Some applicants are hesitant to build measurable objectives because they fear being held to the numbers. Firm numbers are essential, however, to building strong objectives and convincing budgets.

(2) Present accurate and consistent information throughout the proposal.

  • An applicant will lose credibility if information is incorrect, especially in the budget. How confident will a grant maker be in an organization submitting a budget filled with mathematical errors?
  • Information presented in the cover letter, summary or project abstract, line-item budget, budget justification/narrative, and attachments should be consistent. Review documents closely when the proposal preparation process involves multiple writers or persons contributing to the document. Each section of a proposal should align with the others, and contributors should use the same figures, verbiage, and data.
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