Cut to the chase in proposals

A grant proposal is a written argument to convince a funder that your project deserves a grant award. It must be logical and well documented. It must align with the funder’s interests and giving patterns.

“Those are the basics,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “But getting your proposal to the top of the stack of applications takes more. You’ve got to deliver your message concisely and powerfully. You can’t dither.”

Floersch suggests using a deductive (as opposed to inductive) writing style. In deductive writing, you state the point clearly in the first sentence of a paragraph and use the remainder of the paragraph to support and document your point. In an inductive approach, you build up to the point, stating it as a conclusion at the end of the paragraph.

Floersch said she prefers deductive writing for grant proposals because:

  • It cuts to the chase, delivering information more accessibly and powerfully;
  • It makes it easier for reviewers to quickly check the logic of your argument before diving in for a deep read; and,
  • If reviewers need to recheck a point when studying your proposal, a deductive style makes it easier for them to find it.

“Don’t make reviewers slog through a paragraph wondering what you’re trying to tell them. It’s not about the drama of a tense buildup and a startling conclusion. It’s about clarity and ease of access to information,” said Floersch.