All grant proposals require copy editing before being submitted. If you don't have an editor on your staff, one option is to hire a freelance copy editor. Another option is to recruit a colleague to review your proposal for grammar, formatting, general flow, and coherence. If none of these options are open to you--you don't have an editor on staff, you can't afford a freelance editor, and no one in your organization has the time or skills to take on copy editing--a tool you should know about is Grammarly.
Introduction to Grammarly
Grammarly is a Web-based editor that will scan your text for the proper use of more than 250 advanced grammar rules. It will also check spelling and flag overused words. If you use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, you already have access to a built-in tool that checks for spelling and basic grammar issues. Grammarly takes it a step further by not only highlighting potential issues, but also by explaining what the grammatical issues are and the options for resolving them. In addition to spelling and grammar checks, Grammarly includes a plagiarism scan, which compares text against eight billion Web pages and alerts you to text published elsewhere, and a citation generation feature, which will generate citations in MLS, APA, or the Chicago style. According to the company's website, Grammarly catches 10x more errors than Microsoft Office.
How to Use Grammarly to Improve Grant Proposals
If you are working on a grant proposal, you can use Grammarly to review each proposal draft as you go through the process, or you can save the Grammarly review until after you have your final draft ready. Either way, Grammarly can help. If you're pretty confident in your ability to catch grammatical errors, you can use Grammarly at the end of the grant writing process as a back-up to your own careful reviews. A Grammarly scan will catch things a traditional (human) editor would pick up such as extra spaces between words, obvious misspellings, and run-on sentences. Grammarly also looks at sentence length and will call-out overly long sentences for wordiness.
Checking Proposal Drafts with Grammarly
Using Grammarly to scan your proposal drafts before you send them out for review can also be very helpful. Each time you complete a Grammarly scan, the program will highlight things it believes should be fixed. Reviewing the results of the Grammarly scan can help you see where you need to restructure sentences or revise wording. Additionally, every time you finish a proposal draft--particularly between the first and second drafts--you've probably inserted new text. Running a Grammarly scan on each draft will help ensure that the new text is free from obvious errors. Another advantage of running Grammarly scans on every proposal draft is that reviewers of proposal drafts, no matter how many times they are told to focus on the content and not worry about copy editing, have difficulty refraining from copy editing. If you want to minimize the risk that reviewers will spend their time copy editing rather than making substantive comments, doing a Grammarly scan before you send drafts for review should help.
Using Grammarly for Final Editing
If you use Grammarly at the end of the grant writing process, you'll want to reserve a couple of hours to run the Grammarly scan, review each suggested change, make whatever revisions are necessary, and then rescan the document to make sure everything has been addressed. Using Grammarly is an iterative process. Depending on the length and complexity of the document, you may end up going through the process of scanning—>reviewing—>scanning multiple times until you have a final draft that reads well.
Improve More than Grant Proposals with Grammarly
Grant proposals aren't the only documents where Grammarly comes in handy. In the context of proposal writing, Grammarly is also useful to scan cover letters and supporting materials for grant applications such as resumes of proposed staff.
Outside of grant proposals and related documents, Grammarly can help improve the quality of cover letters for job applications, resumes, work emails, and business letters. For online content, Grammarly offers a browser extension that can be activated to review any text you write online including blog posts or Facebook comments.
To have Grammarly scan your writing, you have three options. You can:
Use a browser extension for online content;
Activate an extension for Microsoft Office if you use Windows; or
Upload your document to your Grammarly account after logging in at www.grammarly.com (any document you upload to Grammarly will be saved on the site until you choose to delete it).
What Grammarly Can't Do
Grammarly is a tool. It's not foolproof. It can help you produce a stronger document, but it doesn't catch everything and doesn't fix things automatically. Grammarly scans your writing and points out possible grammar errors, spelling errors, and problems with sentence construction or length. However, you can't do a wholesale "accept" for all the proposed changes. You'll need to go through each suggested correction and decide how to respond. While Grammarly will do a more thorough check than the built-in spell checks of Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, it won't spot all problems, and sometimes its suggestions are going to be wrong or inappropriate for the context. Grammarly will facilitate better writing. It doesn't replace going through your document carefully, and it's not equivalent to using a professional editor to review your document. However, one major benefit of using Grammarly is that, by having to evaluate Grammarly's proposed corrections, you'll find yourself reviewing your writing more carefully and catching problems you might have missed in the past.
Is Grammarly for you?
Unless you're a strong writer and copy editor who rarely misses a grammar or spelling issue, Grammarly can help you. If you're not sure if Grammarly is for you, the company makes it easy to try their product by offering a free version that will check your text for 150 grammar and spelling issues. Grammarly's premium account offers a much larger menu of features.
For anyone writing something that needs to be as error-free as possible--such as a grant proposal or resume--Grammarly's premium version would be a worthwhile purchase. Grammarly would also be a good investment if English is not your first language. While you need to bring a basic understanding of English to Grammarly to evaluate Grammarly's suggested changes, a Grammarly scan can give you direction. After you scan your document with Grammarly, you'll see where your biggest trouble spots are. For example, maybe you're solid with spelling, but there are a few grammar rules that regularly trip you up. Grammarly can help you see areas where you need to improve your skills.
As mentioned above, Grammarly offers a free, basic account. If you want to move to the premium account, you have a choice of three subscription options. You can purchase a monthly ($29.95/mo.), quarterly ($59.95/quarter), or annual subscription ($139.95/year). A quarterly subscription could be a good fit for a job hunt or for a block of time when you anticipate working on a number of grant proposals or other donor documents.
Having a second pair of eyes review your grant proposals and other important documents is always advisable. If you can afford to pay a professional copy editor, but all means do that. If you can't afford a copy editor, and you don't have friends or colleagues who are good at spotting English grammar and spelling mistakes, consider a subscription to Grammarly.
Other Web-Based Editing Services
If you prefer to work with a real person, an option to consider is Editorr.com. Just like with Grammarly, with Editorr.com you upload your text for editing and it is returned to you with edits. The difference is that your editing job is picked up by a real editor, not a software program. Editorr.com has editors working 24/7. Submitted jobs are picked up by an editor within minutes. The text is edited, quickly returned, and--a big advantage over Grammarly--it's possible to chat with the editor about his/her edits.
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