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Finding a Mentor

Consulting someone with experience can be very beneficial. Experienced grant writers not only can share past experiences, they can also provide key connections with individuals on campus as well as at various funding agencies.

Experienced writers can also advise on how not to make the same mistakes they made. Conversations with seasoned grant writers revealed that some proposal writers deliberately set out to dazzle readers with their mastery of technical terminology and overblown phrases. These conversations also revealed some writers try to make a simple, routine job sound complex and difficult in hopes the funder will think they are getting more for their money. Tips included from the conversations for making a more understandable proposal are:

  • Say the most important thing first;
  • Summarize often;
  • Present general concepts, conclusions, major points first and then present the details;
  • Use simple, familiar words;
  • Use short sentences;
  • Keep paragraphs short;
  • Write in an active voice;
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat;
  • Use conventions consistently;
  • Follow the guidelines and rules at the funding agency; and
  • Fine tune the first sentence.

The top researchers at Clemson agree that serving on a research panel is extremely beneficial for the novice grant writer. This takes the fear out of writing grant applications. You will learn what information belongs in each section and how it should be phrased. Being a reviewer also gives you a look at what federal program staffs really want to fund in a specific competition. You will gain an understanding of how to tweak your grant application to garner the most review points, and you will also get to read many diverse grant applications (some good, some bad).