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  • Isabella DeCresie

Proofreading Tips for YOUR Next Grant Application

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Developing a proofreading strategy can greatly improve the quality of your federal grant application.  Here are some tips from grant-making offices across the government that you can use for developing this strategy.


1. Enlist content proofreaders early in the process.

“Request that your colleagues or mentors review a first draft of your specific aims early in the process,” advises NIH.

Consider asking your early proofreaders to focus on macro issues, such as the organization of narrative sections or the logical flow within your application narrative. Even if your proposal is not completely ready, you can still have your designated proofreaders review some sections of the proposal. An Office of Justice Programs resource concurs, stating that early proofreading will allow for “sufficient time to deal with missing information,” as well as other common issues.

2. Develop a master checklist.

“Use a checklist to be sure that you have included everything that is required,” advises an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) resource. “Missing or incomplete items often result in outright rejection or at least a lower score, limiting your chance for funding.”

A checklist can mean different things to different people; applicants should think of a multi-page checklist that includes not only a list of required forms and attachments, but also formatting requirements, and a bulleted list of the agency’s judging criteria.

3. Give your application a grade.

“Rate your own application,” advises the NIH resource. Grade your own proposal after completing a solid first draft, or you can ask a qualified individual outside your organization to evaluate it. Doing this well before the deadline will enable your team to identify weak areas before it’s too late.

If you bring in an outside reader, ARC suggests that you “ask them to read the proposal quickly. That is how reviewers will likely go through it, at least initially.”

4. Enlist a proofreader late in the process to focus on micro issues.

“Enlist the help of someone not involved in the preparation of the application and proposal to review the proposal,” advises a USDA resource. This proofreader can focus solely on micro issues – word choice, sentence structure, and typographical errors.

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