Firstly, make your application easy to read. Use single-spaced, traditional 12-point font with appropriate margins. Organize and structure your application properly with clearly identifiable sections for front matter, introduction, body, and back matter. Use headings and subheadings with appropriate font formatting (i.e., bold, italics, etc.) to help readers quickly locate information. Use white space and indentation to separate major headings, sections, and paragraphs. Use appropriate visual displays to support text, but place extensive data in appendices to improve readability of text. Use numbered and bulleted lists that begin with active verbs to make objectives, methods, steps, etc., easy to find and understand.
Secondly, use appropriate language for your readers who may or may not be experts in your field or subject. Read other applications that have been funded by institutions to which you are applying, and mimic that language everywhere in your application, including the title. Use the language of your field, but avoid jargon or complicated language. Use language that is interesting and engaging to readers and that conveys your credibility in your subject, but maintain balance by being direct and by sticking to your point.
Finally, accept that you must revise your application. Understand that writing is not a linear process that can be finalized after the first draft; rather, writing is an evolving process that requires multiple revisions. Engage others to help you revise and to insure that your language is easy for all readers to understand. Realize that you do not have to write in the order in which information will appear in the final copy.
Writing grant applications is a complicated process. However, you can improve your chances of getting funded if you make your grant application easy to read, if you use appropriate language for your readers, and if you accept that you must revise your application.
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