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January 2021
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Abstract thoughts
Filed under: GRANT WRITING
Posted by: Jon @ 12:26 pm

The next few entries in this blog will be about ABSTRACTS. Why so much importance given to abstracts?

Because, by the time the typical grant reader is finished reading your one-page abstract — they are 85% certain whether they are going to recommend your grant or deny it for funding. This is true, even though most rubrics don’t include the abstract as part of the scoring process. This is true even though most grant writers write their abstract after all is done — almost as an after thought – when their exhausted, cranky, confused and just want to get it over with.

Whether it’s called an Abstract, Executive Summary, Brief Overview, Introduction — it all has the same purpose. The abstract is a clear, interesting, succinct and polished summary of the key components of your proposal: the need, the partners involved, the proposed outcomes, the timeframe, numbers served and the budget. Oh, and you usually have no more than a page to do it in… double spaced. But ultimately, the abstract should be looked at as a sales tool.

I often compare the abstract to an overture. When you sit down to watch a musical, the orchestra begins to play the overture that establishes the tone of what you’re about to see and hear. In this overture, they also establish various themes that will be introduced throughout the piece — themes that underscore the highpoints of the story that is about to unfold. When it comes time to write the abstract, think of it as an overture. And no, wise guy, we don’t expect any of your readers leaving their office that night humming the words to your proposal!

What the reader should expect is that throughout your proposal — starting with the abstract — that you’re going to establish various recurring themes, underscore high points of your program, and present a challenge that you and your community are uniquely qualified to solve…with a little help of the funding agency.

It’s all about good story telling – which is covered in my new book RIGHT BEFORE YOU WRITE (

More thoughts and suggestions about abstracts in the next entry.

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