Tag Archives: writing

Don’t Be Afraid to Use Strong Language

Use fewer, stronger words to make your grant applications, reports and proposals more successful and effective.

I see so many documents that use soft, cushiony words instead of strong, emphatic words.  Not using strong language in a proposal offers an opportunity for the recipient to say NO, or at least not make a decision.  Using soft terms in a report diminishes the results and accomplishments.  Using weak words in a grant application make you seem hesitant or unsure of the effort/organization for which you seek funding.  Not using strong words is not only a wasted opportunity; it can also have long term impact on funding and perception.

By using weak words, people often use too many words.  Too many words can be perceived as propping up a lame idea or program.  Often you are limited in how many words you can include in a grant application or report.  The reason for the limit is to ensure the writer is succinct.  Weak wording almost always results in excess words.

Another impact of both more words and weak words is that the reader will not read everything you write.  This can result in them not having full understanding of what you are proposing or reporting.  Ask yourself how often you have stopped reading something because your brain froze-up due to the wording and length.

You probably do not even realize that you are using weak words or that you are too wordy.  So here are some examples of ways to strengthen and shorten your message.

  • Instead of saying “will give students an opportunity to . . .” replace will give with
  • In place of shows use demonstrates
  • Replace this sentence: We expect that they will generate insights that will help improve operations

With this: We will gather insights from Key Stakeholders that will improve operations.

  • Instead of: We are requesting funding for training because without a comprehensive understanding of how a human services agency should operate in order to meet the purpose and goals of the agency, staff will not be working at their optimum and most effective level.

Try this:  The requested funding will finance staff training that will improve their efficiency and increase the effectiveness of our services.

  • Substitute for:  This study will attempt to gain an understanding of the community needs and obstacles through a comprehensive community engagement and input effort.

This:  This study will gather pertinent data on needs and obstacles through interviews and focus groups.

  • Another example of wordy to impactful.
  • Wordy:  Using a carefully crafted process, we will lead the Board through an assessment that will result in the discovery of the obstacles and misunderstandings that inhibit the realization of our organization’s goals.

Impactful:  We will use our proven evaluation process to help the Board identify the actions necessary to accomplish our goals.

 

Here are a few examples of weak, unsure words and phrases:

  • Will attempt to (just use will)
  • In an effort to (again, just use will, or maybe pair will with a strong verb such as the ones below)
  • Plan to collect (replace plan to with will)
  • Try
  • Attempt

 

And here are some strong, confident words:

  • Provide
  • Demonstrate
  • Obtain
  • Impact
  • Direct
  • Add
  • Present
  • Outcomes
  • Effect

 

Remember these things the next time your write something important.

  • Fluff does not enhance
  • Extra words do not increase the impact of the statement
  • Brevity is powerful
  • Direct has impact
  • Verbs are stronger than verb phrases
  • Confidence convinces
  • Get to the point
  • And never, ever whine!
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How Being Nosy Launched My Business

People often ask me “What do you do?” or “How did you learn to do the work you do?”  This version of my bio answers those questions and provides insight into why I built a business around helping people with research and writing.

By the time I was in high school I had outgrown my plans to be a dancer, but I still wanted to be a writer.  After being on the newspaper and literary journal staffs in high school, I decided to pursue a career in journalism or public relations (now more commonly called communications) instead of being a novelist.  As I lived out my plan working in public relations for a technical/community college in South Carolina, I realized I had a knack for research (or as my mother put it, I was naturally nosy).  And I found that I was skilled at communicating the results of my research in reports, articles, grants and other official documents.

For almost 25 years I sold telecommunications.  But during that time I honed my research and writing skills.  Selling complex voice and data communication systems to a business, government agency or organization required understanding the operations and goals of the client.  Being nosy came in handy again.  Also during that time, I worked with many government, education and non-profit organizations to develop grant applications and budget justifications to help them secure the funding they required to pay for the new voice or data system they needed.

The next step for me was a culmination of all the experience and skill development I had acquired.  I opened a consulting firm, Leverage & Development, LLC, and began helping non-profits, government agencies and businesses with the things they did not have the time or staff or skill to do.  The name of the company tells what the company does –  Leverage & Development, LLC helps people leverage the assets they have (in reports, grants and other documents) and develop the ones they need (processes, programs, funding, etc.).   Since 2003 I has been in seventh nosy heaven reading reports, searching out statistics, interviewing people and conducting focus groups.  I have also enjoyed the opportunity to help people with grant writing, evaluations, assessments, report writing, process and program development and many other things that involve research and writing.  Here are a few of the things I have worked on:

  • Healthcare Workforce Needs Assessment for a 3 county area
  • Outside Evaluator for 2 Juvenile Justice Programs
  • Community Health Assessment for 2 counties
  • Outside Evaluator for a federally funded genetic science awareness project
  • Consultant/Counselor for the South Carolina Women’s Business Center
  • Consultant on program development and grant writing for an entrepreneur incubator
  • Evaluator and Researcher for a workforce development collaborative

 

I think one of the best things about owning a consulting firm that offers research and writing services is that I get to help people who are in a bind.  Many of the clients of Leverage & Development, LLC come to me because they have a looming deadline and they don’t have the time to meet it.  Others need information or evaluation and did not realize it until they were in a precarious position – if they don’t get it done, they lose funding or clients or partners.  Sometimes the clients are just overwhelmed with the amount of information they have and how to turn it into the document they need.  Occasionally another business or agency comes to me in search of a partner to round out their services on a specific project or client.  So those years of working on journalistic deadlines, meeting a sales quota and helping people do more with less make me not only skilled at helping other people in their difficult situations, it even makes me comfortable.

There is no deadline I can’t stare down, no mountain of information I am afraid to scale and no blank page that gives me writer’s block.

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