Proposal Editing to Make Your Grant Shine

Proposal Editing so your Grant Proposal Shines

We all know how important proposal editing is to a well-written grant application, but if we’re honest, editing may not be at the forefront of our minds during the hustle and bustle of getting a proposal submitted on time. This week we are taking a moment to highlight this oh-so-important step in the proposal development process.

We asked the #GrantChat community to shared their thoughts on proposal editing challenges, the difference editing can make in the review process, and favorite strategies and tools. Here are few highlights from the discussion.

Most Frequent Proposal Editing Challenges

When asked, “What are the most frequent editing challenges you see in grant proposals?” the unanimous answer was “Word Counts!”. Other answers shared included:

  • Describe your services and target population in 30 words – Darcy Rendon
  • Technical Jargon – Jane Arney
  • Excessive wordiness: passive voice (uses more words!), overused words (“very”), too much info at expense of message – David Lindeman
  • Consistency in using commas, not the same font and/or size of lettering, double spacing between sentences – Bethany Turner
  • Passive voice. It’s my Achilles heel and one I see often in all kinds of writing (not just grant proposals) – Michelle Loftis
  • Balancing multiple grant writing priorities: need to be concise yet thorough, direct/technical yet engaging. – Susan Zakaib

 Communicate Proposal Editing Feedback

We also spent time talking about “How do you find it best to communicate editing feedback on others’ work?”

  • I use my reviewer voice “The application presents data…” or “The application would be stronger if…” – Rebecca Polar
  • I try to depersonalize it – share suggestions from the reader’s perspective, not mine. Such as: “the reader/reviewer may not understand this phrase – could you please insert a clarification?” – David Lindeman
  • I like track changes, but send 2 versions: one w/ changes accepted (for busy peers) and one full markup (for thorough peers) – Jason Adkins
    I often end up putting my changes into Word with Track Changes and letting the writer choose what to keep – Eryn Baldrica-Guy

As a Reviewer, How Important is a Well-Edited Document to Your Review?

And a few in the community who have served on review panels shared their thoughts on how important a well-edited document is to a grant review panel.

  • Usually, for me, it doesn’t make or break the proposal per se… but…it’s a deciding factor when a proposal is close to the line and an equal proposal is cleaner and easier to read! – David Lindeman
  • Ummmmmm everything? If you have a huge amount of applications to sift thru, time is of the essence 🙂 – Ephriaim Gopin
  • I try not to let issues of grammar or style affect my review. That’s difficult for most reviewers. Mistakes invite scrutiny – Jason Adkins
  • Writing quality is important, but putting too much emphasis on this can disqualify grassroots orgs w limited staff capacity. – Susan Zakaib

What Editing Tools, Books, and Websites Have You Found Useful?

Finally, a #GrantChat wouldn’t be complete without talking tools. When asked “What editing tools, books, and websites have you found useful?” the community shared their favorites:

  • Word’s readability tool shows average words/sentence, use of passive voice, ranks complexity of text with a “grade level”! – David Lindeman
  • @JM_Grants turned me onto @Grammarly and @turner_bethany introduced me to @GrammarGirl – Michelle Loftis
  • I always use Google Docs for writing & love the comments and track changes features. – Bethany Turner
  • Purdue’s OWL – Jane Arney
  • Honestly, the writing reference I use most often for grant writing is – Susan Zakaib


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