I thought I was

10 May

I have had some illumination on the whole following instructions thing when it comes to RFPs. My assumption has been that people do understand the instructions and purposely choose not to follow them. I always thought it was a simple push back to being told what to do or maybe someone just thinking the whole thing was too much trouble and not wanting to bother.

I was having dinner with friends last night–me being the only one at the table without a PhD or a breath away from a PhD–and one of them was talking about preparing her dissertation for submission and how stressful it is. Forget the writing and the research–evidently the biggest freak out comes when they have to format the final product to exacting specifications. Margins and page numbering and page breaks–Oh, my! The quivering candidate takes her dissertation to “The Ruler Lady,” who looks it over, measures margins and makes the pronouncement on if it can be accepted as is. Many tears are shed over this process. Many dissertations are not accepted the first, second, or even third try. Meanwhile the clock is ticking, the deadline for graduation drawing nearer…

Here’s the deal, my PhD/Master Reading Teacher (oh, the irony) friend told me, we actually think we are following the instructions.

Hmmm…I did not know that.

I was greatly surprised by this revelation. In fact, I formatted her dissertation two years ago. It took me 15 minutes. The Ruler Lady waved her magic wand and sent my friend on her way. I am now certain that jaws dropped and garnments were rent as she skipped out of the room, leaving her colleagues bent and bleeding on the floor.

I am still not sure what to think of this. I mean no disrespect to people who clearly have intelligence and drive and persistence. Is it a Big Picture v. Details thing? I remain confused, but glad that I now have this information. Not that I know what to do with it…

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3 Responses to “I thought I was”

  1. The Divine May 10, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    Nice post. I think as a writer, we all know our strengths and weaknesses. There are places within our expertise that are a bit, shall I say, squeaky. Spelling? Punctuation? Deadlines? Deep Language with circuitous routes? For me, it is stupid margins!

  2. Kivrin May 11, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Interesting. I always assumed that most people just don’t care about the formatting-related details. I get the sense that most people think, “Who cares about that stuff, the content is there!” But it’s good (I guess) to know that there are conscientious folks who try to follow the rules, even if they can’t quite grasp how to do it (for whatever reason).

  3. Tomv_39 May 11, 2009 at 7:20 pm #

    My experience – not with PhDers per se but with fellow grant writers – is that alot of people are sort of lazy. Maybe not physically lazy, but intellectually lazy, not willing to make the effort to be disciplined enough to follow the rules if the rules require them to do something other than what is comfortable or easy. “Oh, if they really need to know that and they like the proposal they’ll contact us anyway;” “Don’t worry, nobody’s going to notice something like that.”

    As someone who used to work for the government and was involved in reviewing proposals, I can tell you that a reviewer who has to look at a ton of proposals is looking for easy reasons to shorten the pile and dismiss one, and not following the rules is a no-brainer way to do that (I am sure foundation program officers have a similar mindset).

    Sorry – as you can tell, a pet peeve!

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