The weird thing about writing is that there are so many different ways to use it. Writing an essay is different than writing a resume, which is different than writing a script, which is different than writing a letter – and so on, and so forth. And what’s even more confusing is that while all these texts involve writing, the way they involve writing is so different that knowing how to write in one field might not be helpful in knowing how to write in another. A good letter writer might not be a good script writer, who might not be a good essay writer – and you get the picture.

This can become a big problem when you run into a form of writing you don’t know. For example, I recently started helping a non-profit with their grant writing, and while I’ve done persuasive essays, research, and non-profit newsletter before, grant writing has its own set of rules and expectations.

The more I explore different kinds of writing, the more I realize that there are different practices relevant to different styles, topics, and fields.

So what do you do when you run into a form of writing you don’t know well?

You get inspired by other people’s work.

I’m not saying plagiarize someone’s specific work (you know better than that), I’m saying do a little googling and try to figure out the rules from examples as a whole.

This is what I’m doing now as I continue to help with grant writing. I’m googling variations on “grant writing examples,” “medical grant examples,” and “grant writing basics,” and forming a wide perspective of good grant writing practices based on what I find. This gets even easier when there’s a specific person you want to please – asking a teacher, client, or boss for an example of what they expect can help you not only learn this new field, but can also make you look exceptionally ambitious.

But Tami, you say, there are so many examples out there. How can I sift through them all?

Good question. While everyone’s methods are different, here’s a simple step by step guide on learning from other people’s writing:

1. Collect your examples. Make sure you’re getting the right ones.

When researching grants, I make sure I’m looking at examples that are legitimate, successful, and relevant to my topic.

2. Read (and don’t be afraid to annotate).

3. Note similarities between your examples. These are the basic, but essential, building blocks of this style of writing. Make sure you have these in your writing.

All the grant applications I find use the same basic structure and are mostly research-based – I’ll keep that in mind while writing.

4. Note differences between your examples. These make each example unique, but don’t take away from their excellence. Study these to add your own unique spin to your writing.

Some grant applications use a casual while others are more formal – I’ll adjust based on the type of grants and organizations I’m writing for.

Thanks to the internet, there’s almost no excuse for not gaining inspiration from other people’s writing. Whether you have no idea what you’re writing, or you’re already an expert in your field, it’s always beneficial to learn from others.

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