They say it's a publish-or-perish world in science, but how can you stay alive if you don't have any support? With grant proposal return rates at all-time highs for many granting bodies, how can you make your proposals pass muster, let alone sing? "It's the very simple things that can cause an application to fail," says Jackie Roberts, manager of career resources at the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology. "Read the instructions. Read the instructions. Read the instructions. Then finally, read the instructions," she jokingly cautions.

Common mistakes like too many pages, too small a font size, wrong forms, too long a title, not enough copies, as well as misspelled and incomprehensible text are some of the most basic reasons why proposals are returned, say grant-writing specialists.

"Follow the guidelines," agrees Don Frazier, a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the University of Kentucky in...

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