Online and on time

13 Aug

I have a love/hate relationship with submitting grants online. In theory, online submissions are handy, easy and a time saver. Not to mention tree-friendly.

Plus, let’s face it–when a grant is due at 5pm on a certain day, knowing that you can be uploading and hitting “submit” at 4:45 is comforting. With paper submissions you would have to have your act together by at least 2pm to allow for copy time, not to mention wildly careening through the streets to get to the funder or Fed Ex.

So what’s not to like about online submissions? Oh, allow me…

When working with an online form, even one that allows me to save my drafts, I like to work in Word and cut and paste my response into the form only when I have a final. This way I always know which version is  current and I can have others make changes to my document, rather than have everyone logging in and making random changes to the online form.

In Word, I also get to use spell check and the word and character count tools. This is key as online forms often have strict character and word limits—much less common in paper submissions. I have only ever seen one online form that has a spell check. Some do have counters for how many words or characters you have used or have left. But accommodating those limits can often mean some serious editing, and that I want to do in Word.

The downside to using Word is that I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t use any formatting, like italics, bolding, underline, bullets, tabs or even changing the alignment (centering or justifying). The online forms just don’t recognize this, and the recipient ends up with weird garbage characters, making your precious submission unreadable.

I love formatting, I love subheadings and sections, I love bullets. It creates white space and makes your narrative easier to read. So I have to be inventive in how I make this happen in an online form. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve on how to manage that. I’ll share in a subsequent post.

I have been known to eschew submitting online in favor of the old fashioned way–when and if the funder offers the choice. That way I get to use all of my formatting options.

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