Space Invaders

31 Jul

I’ve written grants that have 60+ pages of narrative, and yes, they were tough. But sometimes what really makes me crazy are those online proposals that have strict word or character limits. With a 60-page limit, I can pretty much say what I want to say and how I want to say it. I can take a while to get there. I can set up trains of thought in a needs assessment and gradually bring them together to illustrate my point.

I’m not saying I’m wordy or that I like tangents, but anyone who knows me well will tell you that sometimes I like the scenic route.

With 2,000 characters, ya gotta get to the point.

At some point I’ll talk more about writing, actual writing—style issues, word choice, etc. But right now, let’s review some simple ways to reclaim a few precious characters.

Space between sentences: I love white space. I also come from the Olden Days when people actually typed their term papers on an honest to goodness typewriter. Being old school, I still like to use two spaces between sentences to create some distance between thoughts and rest the eyes. I usually indulge this antiquated quirk, but when I’m hurting for space, I let it go. This habit is very much a hold over from the Selectric days, so do a search and replace for that space thief.

Space after the last sentence in a paragraph: Sometimes we aren’t sure we’re finished with a paragraph. We add a space at the end of each sentence we type, assuming there will be another one to follow. Go back and place your cursor at the end of each paragraph. See if you don’t find a loose space floating out there, eating into your character limit.

U.S. versus US: The choice is easy.

Everyone knows where Denver is: If you’re required to give a staff bio, there’s no need to say that someone went to the University of San Diego, California. We all know about San Diego. Now, if that San Diego is in Maine—that’s another story. We also all have permission to just say “The University of Texas” if we mean the location right here in Austin. It is the flagship location of the UT System. It IS The University of Texas. That being said, Go Frogs!

The trick here is to be clean, but not to skimp. Abbreviating states in the middle of sentences looks like you’ve submitted your outline or your notes, not a formal proposal. Using acronyms without spelling out what the heck you’re talking about at the first reference is using jargon and you’ll lose your reader. That is space well used.

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One Response to “Space Invaders”

  1. The Divine August 8, 2009 at 12:02 am #

    I am often writing proposals for conferences that have a character limit and I had not thought about the space after the paragraph completion sentence, not had I thought about using U.S. and US. Such good tips, even I had not considered. Go mean kitty!

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