For the Record

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Our last blog, about avoiding jargon in your proposals, has caused some in our community to respond with anger, dismay, and/or a gentle reprimand to walk our talk.  “To err is human” and we sure are.


So let us be clear: we do value older people, we do think women are intelligent, and we do think seniors are capable of high-level, important contributions. We’re sorry for any consternation and/or offense caused by our poorly chosen words.


To clarify what the blog intended, here’s how we deal with those concepts in our textbook, Grantsmanship: Program Planning & Proposal Writing :


Have an outsider read a draft. To test the clarity of the writing, ask friends or family to read the proposal. Some of your best comments will come from people unfamiliar with your field, not operating with the same assumptions, and unaware of the jargon. Merely passing a proposal around your organization has limitations. Staff may think they know what you mean or may be less than critical because of your role (or theirs). Look for someone who genuinely wants to understand your proposal; who is intelligent but not familiar with your organization or field; and who will give you honest feedback—someone like your grandmother. (Page 7)


Choose words wisely. Language is powerful and its use in a proposal must be sensitive and respectful. Careless word selection can taint the proposal with hints of sexism, racism, or countless other “isms” even though none is meant. Are teens in the after-school program “young women” or “girls”? What terminology should you use for men returning to the community from jail? (Page 8)


We stumbled into careless language—exactly what we advise others not to do. Seems it’s pretty good guidance and we’ll try to do a better job of following our own advice.


Our thanks to those who care enough to have raised concerns and sent us emails. For those of you who were quietly offended: Mea culpa. Good intentions, poorly communicated. Onward we go, with purpose to do better. Thanks for walking with us on this sometimes-bumpy path forward.

— Cathleen Kiritz, President and CEO, The Grantsmanship Center



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