Writing a proposal? Try the assert-justify style

Techniques for writing academic proposals

One of the added pressures of your role in academia is writing successful grant applications, partly as they are very time consuming and partly because the writing style differs so much from scholarly writing style.

Andrew Derrington shares with you his ‘assert-justify’ style, in which the first sentence in each paragraph carries the message of the paragraph. The sentence makes an assertion or statement. The remainder of the paragraph justifies or explains the statement that was made in the first sentence.

Andrew Derrington has served on research grant committees for several UK research councils and the Wellcome Trust. With over 30 years of funding experience Andrew developed the ‘assert-justify’ style for grant writing based on his analysis of how grants committees make funding decisions.

The ‘assert-justify’ style sustains the interest of the reader because it tells them what is important immediately. Then, if they need to be convinced they can read what could be a relatively lengthy justification for the statement. The only difficulty with the ‘assert-justify’ style is that many writers, particularly academics, find it difficult to write a statement until they have written the justification. For this reason it is necessary to check what you have written and, if necessary, convert it into assert-justify style as follows:-

  • read each paragraph carefully
  • find the sentence that carries the message
  • move the message sentence to the beginning of the paragraph
  • edit the remaining sentences so that the paragraph still makes sense.

Click here to read his full post where he goes on to outline why this helps to enhance funding proposals.

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