Wednesday, January 10, 2007

#26: Grant Writers, More White Space, Please!

Alison Snyder reminded scientists of some basic tenets of grant writing in a recent article in The Scientist. One of her points was that aesthetics count. In addition reminding them to follow directions about font size, margins, and spacing, she encouraged them to pay attention to how the page as a whole looks. Add space between paragraphs. Use headings and sub-headings.

This point prompted the following great comment about white space.
Applicants generally do not appreciate the importance of [white space]. "White space" in a proposal allows a reviewer to annotate the document while reading, instead of jotting comments on a note pad, which can be missplaced prior to writing a formal critique. In addition, white space "lightens" the document in a reviewer-friendly way. Applicants should consider that their proposal may be read by a reviewer late at night when a baby is crying or on an airplane travelling to a meeting. The more reviewer-friendly, the better.
Robert B. Trimble, PhD, Director, NIH Office of Research

I try to put myself in the readers shoes, and I'm very conscious of white space from an aesthetic perspective. I want my proposal to be a pleasure to read when the reviewer pulls it out of the stack. But I have to admit, I never thought about making it easy for the reviewer to make notes directly on the document. Thanks for the insight, Dr. Trimble.

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