Wrinkles along the Writing Road

By: Kathy Kelsey Foley, director on June 11th, 2014

I’ve been writing grant application narratives and proposals for almost forty years. Longevity doesn’t make the tasks easier, but the processes sure have changed.

At the risk of sounding like my grandmother – I always thought she seemed “old” when she mused about how things had changed – I can’t help but marvel at how technology and other efficiencies have impacted writing tasks.

Who remembers the typewriter? Of course those of us of a certain age remember not only electric typewriters, but also the manual versions.

red IBM Selectric typewriter

The first grant applications I recall working on were typed on a “correcting” IBM Selectric; that was a luxury. This was long before “save as” documents and “copying and pasting” were part of our lexicon. If you left out a word, you started over. Application forms had spaces to fill and we filled them, and we did so mindful of postmark deadlines, often schlepping heavy packages to the post office with only minutes to spare.

The good old days!?

Fast forward to not only computers, Microsoft Word, and PDFs, but also to online grant application submissions. It’s a whole new world.

grant application form

While many aspects of grant application preparation remain the same – i.e., without a solid concept that’s clearly and logically presented, you’re spinning your wheels – some of the technical advances take time to wrap your head around.

There are usernames and passwords to remember and file-saving formats, like .jpeg, .tif, and others that seem to be written in code. What really caught me off guard recently is a move away from word limits to character counts, including spaces. That’s a different way of thinking, for sure.

At first, I had difficulty trimming, but it didn’t take long for me to really get into the process. It became a challenge I had to meet. When faced with paring a draft of more than 3,800 characters to meet a 3,000 limit, I attacked the Word document more like a lumberman felling trees . . . a word here, another there, and goodbye prepositions because they are character wasters. In no time, I was at 2,999 characters and quite proud.

Submitting applications has changed, too. No more trips to the post office, just a click on the submit button once you’ve checked and re-checked all the elements.

lumberman weilding a big axe

No lamenting “what was” for me. I applaud the efficiency of the online tools and with unfiltered candor; I admit that counting characters has made me even more conscious of every word and space.

Word count: 414
Characters, including spaces: 2,425

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