Grant Writing Basics: Look for the Little Details

Planning and completing a grant application is a lot of work, so in the rush to meet the application deadline it can be easy to overlook little details. That is why it is important to identify all requirements listed in the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) near the beginning of the process (even if it does not seem like a big deal).

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Examples of “Little” Details (that are actually important)

These are specific examples of requirements for certain FOAs—these are NOT requirements for all grant applications.

  1. Example from Centers for Disease Control FOA: “Each section should use 1.5 spacing with one-inch margins”
  2. Example from Department of State FOA: “Please also attach CVs for these staff members/volunteers, which are not more than two (2) pages each and indicate the person’s relevant skills and experience.”
  3. Example from Department of Commerce FOA: “APPENDICES (not included in 12-page limit)”
  4. Example from Bureau of Justice Assistance FOA: “Applications should include a high-quality Project Abstract that summarizes the proposed project in 400 words or fewer. Project Abstracts should be—
    • Written for a general public audience
    • Submitted as a separate attachment with “Project Abstract” as part of its file name
    • Single-spaced, using a standard 12-point font (Times New Roman) with 1-inch margins”

Do not use these requirements in every application. You must find all the requirements in the specific FOA you are applying to.

Why Do These Matter?

Government programs established by law and implemented through grants from a federal agency to an award recipient are often complex, multi-year projects. To accomplish the public-serving missions of these grant programs, each entity must follow a specific set of rules.

These specific requirements for a grant application serve two general purposes:

(1) To vet whether applicants follow requirements: If an applicant does not notice or follow the FOA requirements in their application, this may raise questions about how they would implement and report on specific details of the grant program if they received the funding.

(2) To make the application review process fair, consistent, and efficient: Formatting, page limits, and other similar requirements create a level playing field (i.e., fair and consistent) for all applicants to apply and be evaluated by those reviewing grant applications. Practically speaking, these length limits also make it possible for multiple layers of thorough, objective reviews of the applications.

What Should I Do?

In addition to reading the full FOA carefully before applying, you can also perform a careful review of your application after it is written to ensure it accurately and consistently addresses all these types of requirements. This review goes by various names (e.g., Red Team Review, final copyedit, etc.). Whatever you call it, make sure someone is looking closely for these details before you submit the application.

If you are interested in learning more about grant writing, check out our first two posts in the Grant Writing Basics series: (1) Make Sure You Are Eligible before Writing and (2) Ensure Mission Alignment before Applying.

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2 thoughts on “Grant Writing Basics: Look for the Little Details

  1. You know I’ve done everything you asked to get temporary asst(financial to keep me from being homeles and destitute) gov. grants cost a fee. If I had the fee I wouldn’t be asking. My locol asst. Says they only have 2 grants available go figure I done qualify. These you have to have a job before they help I’m tired of asking. This is I can’t deal with this. Today tomarrow I’ll be homeless and the stat coming and getting what I si proudly worked for and called my own. Dwdepression and anger has sat in I refuse to be homeless. Computers can’t feel your needs and anymore if someone gab been reading their mail they would have know how serious this was and how badly I needed help.

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    1. The federal government will never charge a fee to receive or apply for benefits or grants. Please go to and select the Start Benefit Finder button to see if you are eligible for any federal financial assistance programs:

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