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When it is time to write a grant proposal, do you procrastinate until you are facing an impossible deadline? Or do you jump right in without any preparation and waste hour after hour as you get nowhere?
There is a better way to approach a writing assignment. To be more effective and efficient, think of writing as a process that entails a great deal of thought before you begin to craft words on your computer screen. Use the following process whether you are writing a brief or lengthy grant proposal. You will save time and have better results.
- Understand your assignment. Think about your purpose and audience. Do you want to inform or persuade? What action do you want your reader to take? Does your reader have in-depth knowledge of or interest in your subject?
- Brainstorm. Decide what message you want to convey. Jot down ideas as you think of them. Spark ideas by asking yourself the classic questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.
- Research. Brainstorming raises a lot of questions that you should thoroughly research. This might include speaking with a program director, delving into professional publications or interviewing collaborative partners. Document your research so you have it at your fingertips when you start drafting your grant proposal. As you gather information, look for connections and discrepancies.
- Organize your thoughts. Sort your research into topic areas or sections of the grant proposal and use this to develop your outline. The outline can be informal but should provide a structure for your writing. Include enough information so the outline guides your writing but not so much that you include every fact. Review your outline before you begin your draft. Your ideas should flow logically so readers can understand them even if they know nothing about your subject.
- Write the first draft. You are ready to begin writing when you can craft a sentence or paragraph that clearly summarizes your message. Once you start to write, keep at it until you have finished the first draft. If you are working on a long assignment, complete one section at a time. This will help your thought process. When you have finished, put your writing aside so you can edit it with a fresh mind.
- Edit. All good writers revise and rewrite mercilessly. Edit for meaning, style and mechanics. Read your piece through once before doing any editing. Are key points clear? Does your writing unfold logically? Are there inaccuracies or vague thoughts that should be clarified? Once you are satisfied that your message is clear, move on to style. Is your writing appropriate for your audience, using an informal or formal style? Be clear. Be succinct. Delete any unnecessary words. Finally, edit for mechanics — spelling, punctuation and grammar. Avoid jargon and acronyms that will only confuse your readers.
When you are confident that your writing is complete, set it aside and then read it again. Make any final changes. Congratulations — you have written a compelling grant proposal.