Glencora Borradaile






         Associate Professor & College of Engineering Dean's Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Oregon State University

July 2, 2012

Grant writing style questions

Filed under: Silent Glen Speaks @ 4:05 pm
Tags: ,

This isn’t the most serious question, but when writing a grant (without a co-PI) do you use the royal editorial “we”?  Or do your refer to yourself in the first person?  When citing your own work, do you use your surname or do you say “the PI”?  When writing a grant with more than one person, do you refer to “the PI” and “the co-PI”?

In the grants I’ve read, I’ve seen both.  The ones that use “the PI” and “I” generally sound more confident and strong.  But there is some discomfort to me in doing so.  A little too cocky.

Or tell me to stop quibbling, Cora, and get back to writing.

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8 Comments

  1.   Anonymous — July 2, 2012 @ 4:19 pm    

    The last option.

  2.   D. Eppstein — July 2, 2012 @ 4:32 pm    

    In my last (successful) proposal, I used a mix of the royal we (when talking about the proposed research) and third person “the PI” (when talking about my past accomplishments and experience). That said I don’t think it’s very important, and first person singular would probably be fine, more consistent, and less pretentious, as well as more active as you say.

  3.   Russell Impagliazzo — July 2, 2012 @ 6:42 pm    

    The NSF guidelines, I believe, require third person. It seems very awkward and forced, but you get the hang of it
    after a while. At UCSD, the Office of Contract and Grant Administration will complain if I do it wrong….

    •   Glencora Borradaile — July 2, 2012 @ 8:41 pm    

      I see that NSF is specific about the project summary being in the third person (C.2.b. Project Summary), but they don’t say anything about the main proposal.

  4.   JeffE — July 2, 2012 @ 7:47 pm    

    Same here, sort of. I really _want_ to use “I”, but somehow we can never convince ourself to do it, so instead the PI ends up with an inconsistent hodgepodge of “we” and “the PI”.

  5.   stasys — July 2, 2012 @ 10:23 pm    

    Actually you touched a big question. Since I started to write papers in English, I was confronted with being not me, just some “we”. Instead of “I will now prove” I must write “WE will now prove”. But under “we” is also the reader. And perhaps he/she (the reader) doesn’t will this at all. What is wrong here?

    People live, write, say – and die. Why we make things so complicated?

  6.   Suresh — July 3, 2012 @ 5:41 am    

    Yes, I also do a horrible mix of ‘we’ and ‘the PI’. As a panelist, one gets used to reading both of these and it isn’t terrible. But it ruins the flow of the writing. I do occasionally get the desire to scream in print “It’s ME! ME ! ME !”.

    phew. that felt better.

  7.   aram — July 3, 2012 @ 11:17 am    

    I think there’s a place for an I/we mix. “I conjecture, but we (you, the reader, and I, the author) prove”

    For a grant application, you perhaps plan to do the work together with students and collaborators, in which case you’re off the hook.

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