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Transcript effective-writing-style-advice-for-preparing-proposals

AuthorAID Workshop on Proposal Writing

Rwanda June 2011

Effective Writing Style: Advice for Preparing Proposals Ravi Murugesan, MS, ELS AuthorAID Training Coordinator [email protected]

Importance of Writing Style

• A written proposal is your only medium for communicating what you want to do.

– Granting bodies may not have time to discuss your proposal with you.

– They usually make a decision after reading your proposal.

• Winning proposals have good ideas that are communicated well.

Key Elements of Writing Style

• Your writing in a proposal should be: – Clear – Concise – Persuasive – Well-formatted

Writing Clearly

• When you write your proposal, assume that the reader (grant reviewer): – Does not know the context or situation in which you are working.

– Will not immediately understand the importance of your project.

Writing Clearly (cont)

• Keep the grant reviewer in mind when you write.

• Follow basic principles to maintain clarity: – Provide overviews before details.

– If tables and figures are used, design them for easy understanding.

– Expand abbreviations / acronyms.

– Explain difficult terminology or concepts.

Writing Clearly (cont)

• Check whether your writing is clear by showing your proposal to a colleague or friend.

• Ask if he/she can – Spot any unclear parts.

– Understand the results you hope to achieve.

– Understand the importance of your project.

Writing Concisely

• Two useful guidelines by George Orwell, a British writer: – Never use a long word where a short one will do.

– If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Writing Concisely: A Brief Exercise • Using simple, common words – attempt→ fundamental→ • Deleting needless words – red in color→ totally destroyed→ • Condensing wordy phrases – at this point in time→ in the event that→ • Using verbs, not nouns made from them – produce relief of→ provide an explanation→

Writing Concisely (cont)

• Keep sentences short and complete.

• If you use paragraphs in your proposal, keep them short too.

• Preview or summarize main points, for example, in the abstract, but avoid unnecessary repetition.

• Follow length or word-count limitations given in the proposal instructions.

Writing to Persuade

• A proposal seeks to convince or persuade the grant reviewer.

• The tone of writing can play a big role in persuading the reviewer.

• Using the right tone can be tricky.

– It should be persuasive.

– It should not be impassive (dry) or arrogant (overconfident).

Writing to Persuade (cont)

• Consider these sentences: X This project may improve the operational processes of this library. (Impassive/dry)  This project will lead to a substantial improvement in the operational processes of this library. (Persuasive/convincing) X There is absolutely no doubt that this project will lead to an unprecedented improvement in this library. (Arrogant/overconfident)

Writing to Persuade (cont)

• Where to use a persuasive tone: – Introduction: to establish that your project is needed – Conclusion: to explain that your project is likely to be successful and effective • In the other parts of your proposal (for example, background study and methods), a persuasive tone may not be appropriate.

Formatted Writing

• Bad handwriting makes the text hard to read or gives the reader a negative impression.

• Badly formatted documents have a similar effect on the reader.

• Granting bodies often provide templates for writing proposals, but it’s still important to format your writing.

Formatted Writing (cont)

• Some techniques to improve format: – Consider inserting subheadings if a section of text is long.

– Use fonts consistently (for example, all headings should have the same font).

– To emphasize words or phrases, use


, underline, or


; don’t use CAPITAL LETTERS.

Formatted Writing (cont)

• Some techniques to improve format: – Don’t use numbering or bullets excessively.

– If the numbered or bulleted points are lengthy, order them vertically instead of horizontally.

– Consider breaking a long list into more than one list.

– Closely follow any instructions regarding the format of your proposal.

A Final Check

• Proofread your proposal before you finalize and send it.

• Check for errors in spelling and grammar.

• A manual spell check is useful for catching wrong words (for example, aboard instead of abroad).

Some Resources

The Elements of Style

( www.bartleby.com/141/ ) • Getting the Most out of Words ( www.authoraid.info/resource library/Editing%20and%20Publication Chapter%202.pdf/view ) • Academic Phrasebank ( www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk

) • Grammar Girl ( grammar.quickanddirtytips.com


Thank You!