How to Write Grants, Part 2: Pay Attention and Watch Your Words
As the school year continues to proceed in an uncertain fashion, let’s continue to direct some energy into the things that remain in your control. Do you have an idea for a project or supplies that could make your socially distanced classroom situation a bit brighter for your students? There’s probably a grant for that. Part one covered how to focus your idea, showcase it in a title, and plan how you will connect with your audience of grant writers. In part two of the How to Write Grants blog post series, we’re going back to the basics: here are three simple things you can do to make your grant idea stand out and look like the professional that you truly are to those reading your proposal. These may seem like very ordinary, run-of-the-mill ideas, but when competing for the same funds as other educators or institutions, it’s the little things that show granters that you are a serious and trustworthy awardee.
4. Follow the directions. Seriously.
One way grants are sifted through is by eliminating those who didn’t read the instructions. Always read and follow the fine print, down to font size and margins. Your grant application is like a job application. If you don’t follow the word limit, include the required information, or meet the deadline, it’s already over. You’ve shown you don’t really want the “job.” If you have questions about how to complete the grant, there is usually an e-mail or phone number listed for you to contact for information. Better to be safe than sorry in the end. Another point that I go into more in the next post in this series: be sure to provide any requested information regarding items and expenses in the budget. Not doing so is also a deal breaker.
5. Grammar and spelling count. Word choice does, too.
Whatever you do, check your work before you turn it in. Nobody likes to read through a paper that’s a minefield of mechanical errors (not even you, teacher). The appearance of your grant application is just another way of showing you do or don't care. No one wants to read something that goes over his or her head, either. Don’t use jargon in attempt to impress the reader. A grant application is not a college essay. Remember from the first blog post on writing grants how important it is to consider your audience and what they may or may not know about classrooms and teaching. Just be your best self, and you may be surprised at the outcome.
6. Avoid using “filler words.”
I consider any word that can be left out and still maintain the flow of your writing a filler word. Fillers are fluff, the adult version of adding "I hope you liked my story" or "The end" to your essays in grade school. They are little, repetitive words that distract a reader from the purpose of your grant. Although you want to provide as much information as needed, you also want to be concise. Getting your point and ideas across with clarity and brevity will stick in the reader’s mind much more so that unnecessary rambling just to fill space.
For example: the word “will” takes up a lot of space, especially if you have a word limit for your application. You will find yourself using "will" over and over and over...because your project hasn't happened yet. The solution: write your grant in the present tense and the reader can better visualize your project in action. Personally, I think it makes it sound like you have a better vision for your project when you use present tense and allows for more visualization on the reader’s end. Another good word to leave out as much as possible: that. That takes up a lot of room, too. I'm also not too fond of “also,” as it, too, becomes repetitive.
Your new assignment: take a hard look at your own writing. Often as teachers we get so caught up in the teaching of writing (if that is a subject you are responsible for teaching) that we don’t take time to look at our own craft. Being able to write well is a gateway to improving your communication and sharing your voice with others. You’ll feel more confident expressing yourself as a professional, whether it’s sending a parent email or addressing your school board. Writing well is a ticket to getting others to take a closer look at what you have to say. Use grant writing as a means better your classroom environment along with your ability speak for yourself.