Academics are professional writers. We write all the time. We write books and scholarly articles about our research interests. We write a variety of proposals (grant, book, curriculum etc.). We write teaching materials for our classes. We write internal reports as a service to the university. We write reviews of our colleague’s work. Sometimes we get paid for it. The bad news is that academics and scientists are not always the best communicators. Steven Pinker’s talk at MIT on The Sense of Style: Scientific Communication for the 21st Century is long, but full of great examples and excellent advice.
Grant proposals for the researcher represent a large part of that academic writing. Academics frequently pad their writing with complex words, too many words, excess adjectives and adverbs. Unfortunately that is the nature of academic writing. These bad habits creep into grant proposals. Fewer words and simpler words will accomplish the same thing. When writing a grant proposal make every effort to keep these trends from cluttering up the proposal text. Use your critical thinking skills and that perverse attention to detail to analyze your writing for these excesses. Once found, remove or revise them, while retaining what is professionally necessary.
An excellent grant proposal effectively communicates your ideas to a possible patron. That communication has a specific context with expected language. A researcher needs to portray professional expertise through the written word. Most grant proposal advice teaches the writer to avoid jargon in the grant proposal narrative. In the scientific community, that is a nearly impossible task. Refine your use of jargon to what is necessary and common in your context, rather than avoid it completely. Keep the narrative clear, crisp, and concise. Your reviewers will appreciate a well written research story.
A grant proposal is a story. Stories are woven into the human experience. Stories present ideas that engage the imagination of the reader or hearer. Reviewers are a specialized audience for that story. Engaging the reviewer is the first step to a funded proposal. Exciting that reviewer about your research is the next one. Realistically, funding is tight and will always be tight. Good writing that presents good ideas makes for a good story. That story might just get you to the funding party.