References & Slides for “How to Read Research Grant Proposals like an Editor” (CARA webinar, Feb 2023)

References, in order of discussion:

I write a monthly academic writing advice column for University Affairs called “Ask Dr. Editor.”

You can search for examples of funded and unfunded grants submitted by their authors via Open Grants. is a text analysis tool that helps academics to understand the patterns they use in their writing, and to see whether those patterns align with examples of writing from the best writers in their field. helps academics to compare key features of their own writing to a writing sample of their choice, and will show them how their writing compares to that sample. The tool also links to relevant Ask Dr. Editor articles, so that writers can edit their work to help their patterns to align with—or be distinct from—the patterns in their chosen sample.

There’s an explainer for called “Writing well is hard: How to write like the best writers in your discipline.”

the shortlist

I also made a video called “How to make the most out of” that’s available on that site’s help page, or I can email you a 13-page PDF that explains how to edit for prepositions, nominalizations, passive voice, and the like, that you can grab by signing up for my listserv The Shortlist.

I didn’t mention it, but if you’re interested in a short article on using the passive voice well, check out the example that I discuss from the Journal of Experimental Biology in my piece “Using the active voice strategically.”

Also not mentioned but possibly of interest: I’ve got a piece about locating and editing nominalizations, which is called “Zombie-proof your writing: Tips for making the conceptual concrete.”

My article on eliminating choppiness in writing is called “Literature reviews that work.” That piece focuses on choppiness at the sentence level. If you’re interested in editing to improve flow between paragraphs, you might like my older piece, “How to craft an organizational structure for your research article,” which discusses different shapes that can provide a logical structure for a piece of writing.

Structural editing is an entire discipline within editing, though, and it takes a good bit of training and experience to do it well. If you have researchers who are struggling with developing a logical structure in their grants, consider asking your institution to put aside a couple thousand dollars to hire a professional academic editor with expertise in structural editing. I wrote a piece called “How to hire an editor” — but, of course, you can also hire me!

Before hiring a professional editor, it’s a good idea to check if they are a member of our professional association, Editors Canada.

I mentioned that I wouldn’t use the word “stakeholder” in a CIHR grant that is being submitted to the Indigenous Health Research peer review committee. I quoted from this blog post by Indigenous Corporate Training Inc and also from this NIH piece called “Banishing Stakeholders.” Their arguments are compelling, and so I’m removing the term “stakeholders” from more and more grants that I edit, even though there’s no obvious and direct substitute term.

The article that describes the average sentence length of articles in The Lancet and JAMA is [PDF] Barbic, Skye P., et al. “Readability assessment of psychiatry journals.” Measurement 24 (2013): 26. I ran a similar analysis of some of the proxies of readability for the journal American Historical Review, which I wrote about in the piece “How to get your Humanities Research Read & Cited (Part 1).”

The article that argues that fluent texts are rates as “more true” by readers is Alter, A. L., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2009). Uniting the tribes of fluency to form a metacognitive nation. Personality and social psychology review, 13(3), 219-235. I discuss this article in my piece “Jargon can make for good academic writing.”

I teach a 12-part course called “Editing Academic Research Grants in Canada.” If you enjoyed this webinar, you’ll probably find the course valuable. I’m offering 10% off the cost of the course for the month of February, 2023, if you use the coupon code 10CARA. Here are the other courses that I also teach.

You can access my slides as a PDF here. Sorry, but I don’t make my speaking notes available. Please contact CARA if you’d like to request a copy of the webinar recording.

Want me to teach an editing webinar or short course at your institution?

I’d be happy to discuss options for customizing a presentation or workshop to fit your researchers’ needs. Please email me to start a conversation, or schedule a time for us to meet.