Lesson 12 For Grantwriters From “The Princess Bride”

Know what you're talking about...use correct terminology

Continuing with the series of what we can learn from the movie, The Princess Bride, here’s lesson #12.

Know what you’re talking about and use correct terminology.


Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable!

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The world of grantwriting is full of obscure terms that most people really don’t know what they mean. Here’s a quick quiz:

Define the following and differentiate them from each other.

  • Objective
  • Outcome
  • Output

Have you ever found yourself saying some gibberish thing like this?

“Of course we met our outputs in an objective outcome sort of way! That was our goal!”

When I’ve reviewed grants for federal agencies, I’ve seen cases of nonprofits who lacked a full understanding of these (and other) terms. Vocabulary isn’t a matter of opinion in many cases—some words are correct and some words are incorrect to express particular ideas.

If you aren’t clear on what words mean, you’ll be found out. Don’t try to fake knowing what terms mean in your proposal. It will definitely hurt your credibility and may cost you the grant. Take the time to learn—often funders have glossaries that explain what they mean by specific words. If you want their funds, you need to accept them as the “correct” definition for that proposal, even if other funders define the same words differently.

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