Accessible Navigation.

Writing Tips

  • Follow the funding agency’s guidelines, particularly concerning form and length (single- or double-spaced, margin size, number of pages, pagination, etc.). If you don't have their guidelines, get them before writing your proposal.
  • Use bold headings to subdivide your proposal. Your headings should make sense when read by a reviewer skimming over your application.
  • When responding to a government request for a proposal, follow the suggested format as closely as possible.  Whenever possible, organize the information in the same order it was requested in the program solicitation and use similar headings to those in the solicitation so that the information is easily identifiable by reviewers.
  • Don't try for perfection on your first draft. Get down your ideas, then edit and rewrite.
  • While being thorough and responsive to selection criteria, be concise.  Always ask yourself how each sentence responds to the criteria, and eliminate any superfluous text. The reviewer does not want to dig through pages of text to find information that you could have presented in a few well-worded paragraphs.
  • Use a title that suggests the results you hope to achieve rather than what you plan to do. For example, "Improving Reading of Fifth Graders at Lewis & Clark School" is better than "A Proposal for Reading Machines in Lewis & Clark School."
  • As you prepare the budget, make sure your proposal supports each item in that budget.  If there are any large-ticket items in the budget, be sure that their necessity is highlighted throughout the proposal.
  • Write your abstract or summary last, after you have finished the major parts of your application.
  • In your abstract or summary, emphasize the benefits of your work and why the project should be funded now.
  • Make sure you indicate why this funding agency is the best source of money for this project.
  • Also emphasize why the particular program is of importance to the target audience.  Why this solution for this group?
  • If the project is timely or responsive to hot topics in the field, highlight this.  For example, if you are writing a proposal related to climate change and the State has a newly developed climate change initiative, use this as an opportunity to discuss the program’s significance in terms of this new initiative.
  • Emphasize opportunities rather than problems whenever possible.  Bear in mind that you can phrase a problem in such a way that it is an opportunity for greater impact.
  • Determine your project's features and emphasize them in your proposal.
  • Use graphs, charts, and maps to illustrate your points whenever possible.
  • Always include both "Requested from Agency" and "Cost-Sharing" columns in your budget.
  • Always include your plans for funding your project after the grant ends.
  • Use active, not passive, voice. For example, use "The Chemistry Department will build the laboratory in 2014." rather than "The laboratory will be completed in 2014."
  • In general avoid words that are wishy-washy such as hope, wish, want, and so on.  For example, avoid phrases such as “we hope to reach a large number of students;” instead, use a statement such as, “we will reach a large number of students.”
  • Whenever possible, complete the narrative one-two weeks ahead of the deadline so that a colleague unfamiliar with the proposal can review it for you.  This objective reader should be able to repeat back to you what you are planning to do in relative detail.  If they cannot, then the narrative should be revisited, particularly in areas that were unclear to the reader.