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Word Counts, is it better to use more or less?

When I first started writing grant applications, I thought it was important to reach the maximum word count every time. I would see a 200 word count maximum and think, I better get as much information in my response as possible. As I have become a more experienced writer, I realized this is a waste of everyones time.

Word counts are meant to be a guide of how much information and detail to include. Ideally if you can get your point across in 100 words, use 100 words, do not just the fill space with pointless information. Being concise is always better, word counts are not a requirement to reach. You don't want to waste your time writing it and the funder definitely does not want to waste their time reading it.

When I first started writing grants, I tried to write my applications in a way that sounded important and smart. I was trying to prove how important our program was and I was probably trying to sound like a "good writer". But now, I realize a funder just wants to know what you are going to do, how it will benefit the community and how you will execute it. They can see through the clutter, and often the clutter will cloud the important information, which can get in the way of you getting the funding. Simple concise answers are clear and easy to understand, which is what you want when multiple people are reading your application. You do not want any confusion about what the program is, how it will benefit and what you plan to do.

Now if you are applying for a government grant or a tender, it is common to have a 2000 or 5000 word limit. This shows you exactly what they are looking for, as much detail on the project or program that you can provide. But this still doesn't mean you should fill the space up with cluttered words or information, or even continue to repeat your message. It means provide as much detail that you can about the program. If you don't have the answers to fill the space, they will see that whether you fill the word count up or not, so do not waste your time.

Extremely low word counts are difficult, but are there for a reason. I still have difficulty with them and find myself breaking down sentences to the bare bones. It can be frustrating at times because you might think you can't get your point across in one or two sentences. But it really breaks down your message to its clearest form and is great practice on being concise. You can always use this to find out the bare bones of your point in its clearest and most concise form, which can help you in other applications.

It is always good to remember to only put out the most important, simple concise information possible. If a funder is interested and wants more information, they will get in touch with you and ask for it. You do not always need to give them every bit of detail. If they like your program or want to work with your organization, they will contact you. I have been contacted many times for more information, so don't worry so much about how many words you are using, just focus on the quality and the importance of the message.


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