Grant Writing Tip: Write the Executive Summary Last

Earlier this month, I launched my new blog, GrantSpeak. I shared my top 10 grant writing tips for improving your success rate in the grant world. This post goes into depth for Tip #10:  Write the Executive Summary Last.

Thank You, Mr. Holmes!

When I taught junior high, my students often asked me, “Are we ever going to use this?” – referring to whatever topic we were studying at the time. Well, my high school freshman English teacher will be happy to hear that I apply a concept I learned in his class every time I write a grant proposal.

Mr. Holmes assigned an instructional exercise called a circular essay to help us organize our writing.  Now, mind you, it’s been a few decades since I sat in freshman English class. But what I remember is that we wrote a paragraph for each of the points of our essay, using transitions to move from point to point. Then we wrote the conclusion—a statement that summarized our main points and provided a clincher to move the reader to take action or adopt a certain point of view.

The circular nature of the exercise involved writing the introduction last, to connect the opening and closing statements and ensure continuity. It made sense to me at the time, and it still makes sense to me today. So much so that I apply it to my professional writing.

Why Write the Executive Summary Last?

The executive summary, also called an abstract, provides a brief overview of your complete proposal. And, if written well, it will pique the grant reviewer to keep reading. The executive summary is the section of a grant proposal that is usually read first, but you need to write it last.

Proposal development often morphs during the writing process, especially when more than one person is involved. Writing the executive summary after all other components of the proposal are finalized ensures that it accurately reflects the proposal content.

Time for Action

This tip is easy to put into practice. And remember, practice makes permanent. You don’t even have to wait until you write your next grant proposal. Writing the beginning last can apply to reports, speeches, etc.

Stay tuned for my next post: “Tip #9 Solicit an Objective Proofreader”