A Talk for Students in MICB-505A Talk for theGeorgetown University Postdoctoral AssociationApril 19, 2005 WRITING TIPS WITHFOCUS ONGRANT APPLICATIONS William Sansalone, Ph.D. Director, Division of Grants and Faculty Development Imaging Science and Information Systems (ISIS) Center Department of Radiology Adjunct Professor Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 7-2891;email@example.com
Tip 1. Use an appropriate style manual-- and a good dictionary. • The prescribed style manual at Georgetown is “Chicago.” (The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition, published by The University of Chicago Press.) • A user friendly companion is “ Gregg.” (The Gregg Reference Manual, 8th Edition, published by McGraw-Hill) • Even more user friendly is Strunk and White’s “little book.” (The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White; see page 11 for full reference.) • Webster’s Eleventh New Collegiate Dictionary is recommended.
Tip 2. Omit needless words.It was both a long ceremony and very tedious.1The ceremony was both long and tedious.1 • Before. The project will consist of a research complex comprised of modular, flexible research modules designed for maximum adaptability to changing investigator needs which includes, specialized research areas, common equipment rooms, and offices. • After. The project will consist of a research complex comprised of modules designed for maximum adaptability to changing investigator needs; these include specialized research areas, common equipment rooms, and offices. • Better alternative: Recast.
Tip 3. Use “that” and “which” with precision. The lawn mower that is in the garage is broken.1 The lawn mower, which is broken, is in the garage.1 • Defining.The project embodies a module that is designed for adaptability to changing needs. • Nondefining. The module, which uses state-of-the-art materials, is designed for adaptability to changing needs.
Tip 4. Keep related words together. He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center.1 He noticed a large stain right in the center of the rug.1 • Before. In a significant number of men, prostate cancer, refractory to androgen ablation re-emerges, resulting in a significant number of deaths as the resulting “androgen independent prostate cancer” leads to a huge increase in metastatic potential. • After. In a significant number of men, prostate cancer refractory to androgen ablation re-emerges. The resulting “androgen independent prostate cancer” leads to an increase in metastasis--and, eventually, death.
Tip 5. Use active voice mainly. Active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than passive. • Before. If PTEN mutations can be detected in myeloma clinical samples and if Akt activation can be confirmed at late stage of patients, the concept for therapeutic intervention with inhibitors targeting the P13K/Akt pathway will be justified. • After. Detection of PTEN mutations in myeloma clinical samples and confirmation of Akt activation in late-stage patients would justify therapeutic intervention with inhibitors targeting the PI3K/Akt pathway.
Tip 6. Keep to one tense. Record results in the past tense; use present tense for generalizations.2 • Before. Liu, Neu, and Lee (1) found that the transforming capacity of specific oncogenes under their experimental conditions is cyclin D1 dependent. In work reported by Robles et al. (2), Ras-induced skin tumor formation was also reduced in transgenic mice deleted of the cyclin D1 gene. (From Section b. of a NIH application) • After. Liu, Neu, and Lee (1) found that the transforming capacity ofspecific oncogenes under their experimental conditions was cyclin D1 dependent. Later, Robles et al. (2) discovered that Ras-induced skin tumor formation was also reduced in transgenic mice deleted of the cyclin D1 gene.
Tip 7. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end. This steel is principally used for making razors, because of its hardness.1 Because of its hardness, this steel is used principally for making razors.1 • Before. Nivene El-Koshairi will demonstrate the capabilities of the NIH Commons. This system enables investigators to electronically access priority scores and check proposal status. • After. Nivene El-Koshairi will demonstrate the capabilities of the NIH Commons, a system that enables investigators to access priority scores and check proposal status electronically.
Tip 8. Do not take short cuts at the cost of clarity. If an abbreviation is the first word of a sentence, spell it out. Alternatively, recast the sentence. Examples: • Nitric oxide (NO) • Vascular endothelial growth factor (VGEF) • National Institute of Allergy and infectious Diseases (NIAID) • NIH? Not necessary to spell out; it’s in most dictionaries. Do not use abbreviations unless you are certain your readers will readilyunderstand them. A good rule is to start your research plan by writing out names in full and, when the reader has got his/her bearings, to shorten them.
Tip 9. Revise and rewrite. Few of us are so expert that we can produce what we are after on the first try. • Before. Dr. Robin Barr of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) will be the guest speaker. The subject of Dr. Barr’s talk will be the various grant mechanisms available to help advance one’s professional development--and to contribute to the mission of the National Institute on Aging. Although the focus will be on NIA offerings, other NIH institutes offer the same mechanisms. • After. Dr. Robin Barr, of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), will talk about the various grant mechanisms (R03s, K-awards, etc.) available to advance medical research--and one’s professional development. Although the focus will be on NIA offerings, other NIH institutes use the same mechanisms.
Tip 10. Develop an eye for layout. Producing an attractive grant application (or other piece) calls for a good eye as well as a keen mind. Large blocks of print look formidable. Use white space to make your write-up inviting and easy to read (Indent bullets; split paragraphs; give illustrations breathing space.) Set headers in an easy-to-comprehend, hierarchical scheme. • Adhere to the recommendations in the NIH instructions (Form 398): • The height of the letters must not be smaller than 10 point. • Helvetica or Arial 12-point is the NIH-suggested font. • No more than six lines of type within a vertical inch. • Margins--in all directions--must be a least a half-inch.
References • Strunk, William Jr., & White, E.B. (2000) The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition). Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon, a Simon & Schuster Company. • [CFS] Committee on Form and Style. (1964) Style Manual for Biological Journals (Second Edition). Washington, D.C.: American Institute of Biological Sciences. • [CBE] Council of Biology Editors. (1994) Scientific Style and Format: the CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers. Cambridge, UK: CBE.