For those of you missionaries who are avid readers of literature, I have a test question for you: what is the length of the longest sentence in published literature?
Answer: 13, 995 words! It is in The Rotter’s Club, a 2001 novel by British writer Jonathan Coe. If you haven’t heard of Mr. Coe, you might recognize 2nd place for longest sentence: 4, 391 words by the famous Irish novelist James Joyce, in Ulysses.
Now for those of you missionaries who are avid readers but who also need to write successful grant applications, forget about those crazy-long sentences in The Rotter’s Club and Ulysses! In our work as grant writers, the motto is “less is more.”
Now this might surprise you, but also I ask you to NOT forget about good literature. Because what does good literature do? It conveys with elegance, brilliance and enduring appeal whatever it chooses to write about: a person, an event, an emotion, a need, human relations, our deepest aspirations.
Good grant applications, in their narrative descriptions should also attempt to be elegant, brilliant and appealing to the foundation officers who read them: your words should convey your passion for the project and give the foundation officer a descriptive feeling for the value and need of the project. This will move them to want to support it. Choose your words carefully!
Some writers will rework a single sentence a dozen times. You don’t need to do that, but always review your writing at least once with an eye to offering that description that will tell your story, but using as few words as possible.