Grant editing is an important part of preparing a successful grant proposal. Many times, a thorough review and edit will help you catch issues that would have reduced or ruined your chances for grant funding. So, how do you edit grant proposals? It’s very similar to the process you might use for editing other types of documents – just with a little more attention to detail.
Before you start editing your grant proposal, there’s some important information you’ll need to gather. If you’re editing your own proposal, you should already have all this information. But if you’ve agreed to edit someone else’s grant proposal, ask the writer for all these details before you start:
- Funder’s name
- Funder’s website and grant opportunity title (if applicable)
- The writer’s or organization’s style guide. If they don’t have a formal style guide (they likely won’t), just ask them how many spaces they add after a sentence, what citation format they use, and how they write numbers. This will help you catch inconsistencies once you start editing.
Once you have details on the funder and grant opportunity, you’ll want to locate this information:
- Funder’s mission and priorities
- Keywords or phrases
- Application formatting requirements
Now it’s time to start editing! Here are the six questions (in order) that I find to be the most helpful when editing a grant proposal:
1) WERE THE QUESTIONS ANSWERED?
This might seem painfully obvious, but it’s worth mentioning because incomplete responses to grant applications are way more common than you might think.
How does this happen?! Grant applications are all different, some questions are more like a five-in-one question, and sometimes the questions are downright redundant. Given all this, it’s easy to overlook or misunderstand part of a question. You may also assume it’s okay (it’s not!) to skip over some parts of a question if you addressed it earlier in the proposal.
As you’re editing your grant proposal, look at every single question and make sure each response fully answers the question. Some funders won’t ask questions; they’ll simply state the information they want you to include. In these cases, make sure you’ve clearly addressed everything they’ve requested.
If you typically edit your own grant proposals, consider having someone else help you with this step. You may think you’ve clearly answered a question but someone who’s unfamiliar with your organization or program may pick up on some key details you omitted.
2) WAS THE EVALUATION CRITERIA MET?
Evaluation criteria are most commonly found in government grant applications. If you’ve been given evaluation criteria, it’s critical that you review your grant proposal in light of the criteria. The evaluation criteria are what reviewers will use to judge your application, so you want to address each criterion.
The evaluation criteria will typically be aligned with the application questions, but this isn’t always the case. I’ve seen a couple of applications that added in criteria that weren’t mentioned in the questions. That’s why it’s SO important to review the questions AND evaluation criteria.
3) HOW’S THE GRAMMAR, SPELLING, & WRITING STYLE?
Once you’ve completed the first two steps and added any necessary information, it’s time to start editing the grammar, spelling, and writing style. Fortunately, most grammar and spelling issues will be caught by the word processing program you use (gotta love those little red and blue lines!). Editing for writing style will take a little more work since most of us struggle to write simply. You want your grant proposals to be easy to read, which requires short sentences and paragraphs, basic words, and sentences written with an active voice.
For more details on grammar, spelling, and style, check out 32 tips for a polished grant proposal.
4) IS THE PROPOSAL ALIGNED WITH THE APPLICATION?
Funders and grant reviewers read thousands of applications every year. If you align your proposal with the application, it will be way easier for the reviewer to determine if you’ve provided all the requested information.
The best way to align your proposal with the application is to present the information in the exact order it was requested in the application, even if it makes absolutely no sense to you. Once your material is in the correct order, add headings (and subheadings, if necessary) before each section. Headings make it easier on the reviewer to find the information they need.
Bottom line – if a funder can’t find what they’re looking for in your grant proposal, your chances of funding drop significantly.
5) WERE ALL FORMATTING REQUIREMENTS MET?
Some funders require very specific formatting. The most common requirements include font type and size, line spacing, narrative length or number of words/characters, and margin size. If formatting guidance is provided, follow it exactly. You don’t want to risk losing funds because you tried to sneak in a smaller font!
6) CAN WE ADD IN SOME OF THE FUNDER’S LANGUAGE?
Using some of the funder’s key words or phrases is a great way to make it crystal clear that your proposed program or service is well aligned with the funder’s mission and priorities.
If it’s a good fit, you may have already inadvertently included similar language. If you haven’t, look back through your narrative to find any words that could be swapped out for the funder’s key words. Just don’t overdo the word swap! You don’t want your proposal to sound like a regurgitation of the application or funder’s website.
For longer proposals, you may even want to highlight key words or phrases with bolding, underlining, or italicizing. Again, don’t overdo it!
Once you’ve addressed these six questions, read your grant proposal one last time to make sure it’s perfect (or as perfect as it’s going to get!). Package it, send it, and then, as one of my best grant-writing friends says, “Never look at it again because you’re bound to find a mistake that will haunt you”.