I love browsing in the reference section of a good bookstore and especially enjoy reading about the art of writing. There are many books that will offer you advice that you may wish to put into practice. I have written in past tips how a good journalism class helps you gain valuable writing skills. Finding a community college course will be well worth your time. A trip to your local bookstore will also assist you.
So what are some of the common errors that are found in proposals? What should you be looking for in your own writing? I find it helpful to scan my writing paragraph by paragraph and check for: subject-verb agreement; run-on sentences; usage errors; sentence fragments; and singular and plural agreement. I try to avoid vague and ambiguous language than can confuse and irritate the grant reader.
As you weigh your choice of words, select from strong action verbs. You will build your own list of action verbs over time. For example, many proposals ask you to include information about key players in the proposal implementation. You will have your key project implementers submit their resumes for inclusion in the appendix of the grant. In the narrative, you will write a few sentences about each person and the role that individual will play in your grant. Looking at your list of action verbs will help you. A few to consider include: accelerated, accomplished, achieved, conducted, demonstrated, expanded, generated, launched, motivated, revamped, streamlined, and so forth.
I am often asked if there is a special language for grant writing. I don't believe there is a special language, but I do believe there are words and phrases that speak clearly to the reader. I keep a list of "instead ofs" that I refer to when I write and when I edit.
For example instead of this phrase, try these words:
in view of, use because
in a number of cases, several
in view of the fact that, because
in all probability, probably
in the event that, if
in the vicinity of, near
it is imperative that, be sure that
arrived at the conclusion, concluded
make decisions, decide
last but not least, finally
You get the idea. Keep it simple and to the point. Your reader will understand what you are trying to do and your grant will have a better chance of being funded.
Dr. Julie Miller, in her book "Business Writing That Counts" suggests that we eliminate the ultimate weasel word: there. She believes that it does not produce engaging prose and should be expunged forever from your writing. There is, there was, there has been, there will be are all examples of dull, flat writing. Starting sentences with this non-word is a lazy way of writing. So there.