Office of Sponsored Programs

Grant Writing

Ten Tips for Better Proposal Writing

  1. Use clear, concise language. Avoid “bureaucratic” and “official” language.
  2. Avoid metaphorical language. It’s great for poetry, but not so great for proposal writing.
  3. Omit needless words (i.e., At The Present Time = Now)
  4. Use the Active Voice. (“The boy hit the ball”) (Subject + Verb + Direct Object)
  5. Speak English (as opposed to technical jargon)
  6. Stay Calm. DON’T USE ALL CAPS. Also avoid unnecessary bolding, italicizing, and underlining.
    AND NO EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!
  7. Match your subject to your verb (single v. plural)
  8. Limit the use of adverbs, especially ones like “very” and “hopefully” that convey little meaning.
  9. Know when to use that and which.
  10. Use the right word (i.e., accept/except or assure/ensure/insure)

Other Proposal Writing Resources

National Science Foundation

The staff of the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) often provide informal guidance to proposers. Staff members give workshops on proposal writing, answer questions by phone and e-mail, and talk to potential awardees at professional meetings and at NSF. The following is the essence of the advice often given to inquirers. These suggestions for improving proposals were collected from a variety of sources, including NSF Program Directors, panel reviewers, and successful grantees. Ultimately, most proposals are peer reviewed in panels consisting of colleagues in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines or related fields, and the success in obtaining funding depends in great measure on reviewers’ judgments and their written reviews.

Purdue University Extension

For many people, applying for a grant is a mysterious process. You may have the feeling that those who are successful and receive grants are either lucky or have “inside connections.” But grant writing does not have to be mysterious. In most cases, grants are awarded based on a careful review process with criteria that everyone has access to. In this publication, we help you break down the mystery of preparing a more competitive grant application. In the following sections, we outline the steps you need to complete. The examples that we use in this publication are oriented towards grants to assist new business ventures. But because the steps to completing a successful grant proposal are the same for all grants, this publication will be useful even if you are considering a grant in another area. At the end of the publication, you will find a series of worksheets to help you with the process of writing a successful grant proposal.