After I finish reviewing a stack of grant proposals, I’m reminded of how few applicants take their audience into account. Many proposals include obscure acronyms, few paragraph breaks, and no succinct summary of the research question.
A grant reviewer in the sciences has released a similar list of suggestions for grant writers. Not coincidentally, the reviewer advises applicants to show empathy for the overworked reader. Some of the tips:
- Use headers. Bold them and use them to show the flow of your argument.
- Include figures and visual aids to illustrate key data or methods.
- Give as much attention to the broader impact and diversity statements as you do to the project.
For BU faculty, we have additional resources available to help conform your grant to the new NIH format. Of course, reading too much advice can sometimes serve as a distraction from the actual writing of the grant.
The overriding message to keep in mind is to think like a reviewer. What are the criteria that reviewers are looking for? What formatting, figures, and language can you use that enhance clarity? In most cases, a reviewer comes to a conclusion by the first page and then looks for confirming evidence. Make that first page shine.