I am back! A round of digital applause for the intrepid guest bloggers last week for keeping us all entertained, informed, and uplifted. A fine job all around.
While I was away I was chatting with a friend who reads grants for a living, a job that bears some striking resemblance to query letter answering. And if you happen to be thinking about writing a grant at this very moment, I have a piece of advice for you: don’t quote Gandhi.
Apparently everyone who applies for a grant quotes Gandhi! And while Gandhi is no doubt eminently quotable and no one will argue with his very uplifting and memorable sayings, reading Gandhi quote after Gandhi quote will steadily drive even the nicest grant reader insane.
Her experience struck a chord with me having judged two contests and having answered a deluge of queries, and it gets at something really basic. If you want to stand out, think for a second about what you think everyone would do: the joke everyone would make in a query, the approach everyone would take in a writing prompt, the pacifist leader that everyone might quote in a grant. Then do something different.
I know this isn’t the most earth-shattering advice in the world (it may not even be porcelain shattering), but just stepping back and thinking about what you’re about to write from a “what would everyone do” standpoint can save you from doing that very same thing. And trust me: when writing a query or entering a contest or writing a grant it pays to stand out from the crowd.