How do you think a grant reviewer will see your proposal? Try putting yourself mentally in the place of the reviewer, keeping in mind that he or she has no emotional attachment to your idea, nor any prior background knowledge of why your project would be a good one.Here, we get some hints and insights from professional grant reviewers about what their preferences and pet peeves are (adapted from research by Purdue University).

First, make the title of your proposal meaningful and understandable. One reviewer says, “If I can’t understand the title, then I don’t fund it.”

Next, get to the point quickly. A reviewer states, “If you haven’t told us what you want by the end of the third paragraph, chances are you’re not going to get it.” Another agrees, adding, “If it is clear, concise, to the point, everything should be there without having to look for it.” More pieces of advice about clarity and what to include: “Statistics are important, but can be confusing. Use them when they set the stage and give a context for the project.” “We like to see more, rather than less, information is the budget. We want to see how our money will be used, how it will fit into the whole picture.”

Reviewers are put off by the person or organization submitting the proposal trying to take shortcuts or fool the funders. One advises, “Be thorough in your preparation and research before attempting to initiate contact with a funder.” Another complains, “What makes me crazy is an organization ignoring our guidelines,” and yet another advises, “Don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes. Be honest and straightforward.”

The bottom line: be thorough, clear, honest, and well-prepared with your grant proposal, and you improve your own chances for success.