How to become a more productive and better Horizon 2020 proposal writer

Who doesn’t want to become a better proposal writer?

I know you do because you are reading this post.

But you only need to change one thing to be a better proposal writer, and one of these small changes could make you a better writer overnight.

Stop focussing on the deadline

Focussing on the deadline puts a huge burden on your shoulders. Every day that goes by and you’ve not progressed the proposal any further the more panic you feel. The more rushed your work and the lower the quality of your proposal.

Stress can be good for us, and hard proposal deadlines can be motivating. But only up until a point, too much stress and we become unproductive, too little stress and we aren’t productive enough.

Instead, commit to a process and schedule working on the proposal every day and write like a professional writer.

Nowadays we are all writers, we are all writing emails, reports, texts every minute of every day. But we casually write, we add links as we go, we go back and edit sentences and words, we have the internet open reading social media.

But professional writers write.

They do their research, they open up a blank document, have their notes to hand, block out the world, and focus on creating words and only words.

Writers don’t edit as they go, writers don’t break their flow to paste in a picture, read an article on the internet, or go back to the start to edit a paragraph.

Adding in links can be done later, adding in pictures and charts can be done later, it all can be done after the first draft is complete.

Focus on completing a draft of the proposal that is only the words, no graphics, no links, no editing,  just ideas explained with words.

And that works for just a section, a page, a paragraph, focus on completing a complete draft of just words.

Schedule timed writing sessions

It doesn’t matter when you write or even what you write, just make sure you write every day.

Sometimes the single most difficult part of writing a proposal is just sitting down and writing.

Maybe it is only 10 minutes a day, maybe it is 30 minutes, maybe it is an hour, but during that time you do nothing but write.

And it doesn’t matter what you write, just write,  you don’t need to start at the beginning of the proposal.

Writers rarely write a story in the sequence it is read.

Writing is a creative task, and you write whatever you feel you need to write. It may be hard, it may be difficult, but no matter the period of time you assign to writing focus on just writing something in that time.

An hour and you wrote a paragraph?

It doesn’t matter, something is better than nothing and every time you sit down to write you’ll get better.

Write for an audience of one

When we write an email, we are writing to a defined audience, many times that is one person. We rarely stumble over what to say, because we are speaking to one person. We know what we what to say to that person so we just say it.

With proposal writing, we end up writing for everyone around us, our boss, our proposal partners, our colleagues. We write for everyone close to us.

Instead, picture writing for one person, the evaluator.

Give them a background and a persona, give them a name, make them real.

Imagine what you would say to this person to convince them of your idea. What words would you use to persuade them?

Your colleagues, your boss, your proposal partners, are already convinced about the proposal. They’ve been with you all the time, they understand the assumptions you’ve made, they know why you are doing that task, they understand the complexity.

Your audience doesn’t, make that person real and write for them, explain it clearly to them.

Be concise and clear right from the start

Think before you write every sentence, what do I want to say? And then write it down using the least amount of words possible.

Drop your adverbs, remove wordy phrases, lose the metaphors, use short words, remove the jargon, and be more active in your voice.

Write what you mean and mean what you write.

Mark Twain instructed us to “employ a simple and straightforward style”. Give every word a job to do, unnecessary words clutter your sentence and crowd out your meaning.

‘In order to’ is just ‘to’.

‘In respect of” is ‘about’

‘In light of the fact that’ is ‘because’

“in the course of’ is ‘during’

Use your verbs, verbs create meaning, they bring life to your writing.

We often use nouns instead of using verbs, we give consideration to something when we can just consider it. We provide an improvement instead of saying that we will improve.

Be bold, be strong, and own what you say.

Tell me what you are going to do, not what the project will do, a project can’t take action, a project can’t commit, a project can’t develop anything.

We commit to reducing inequalities in society

is much stronger than,

the project commits to reducing inequalities in society.

Use and own your verbs this will automatically make your writing shorter and easy to understand.

Take the first step

If you committed to doing just one of the tips above your proposal writing will improve, make it a habit, and you’ll improve your proposal writing overnight.

Which step will you take?

Share this post and let people know how you will improve your proposal writing.

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