The Terror of the “Two” – Format Frights

Format Frights - Terror of the Two

My (Recent) Grant Horror Story

When can a tiny superscript spell trouble for a grant application? When it’s formatted as a regular number and makes a label read “population under age 62” instead of “population under age 6”. Whoops.

I recently experienced my first federal grant debriefing and am ecstatic to report that we, J. Miller & Associates,  won the award. Things could have turned out very differently though. It was the simplest of details that could have made the difference between success and failure.

Format Frights!

It turns out that when Adobe Acrobat converts a Word file to a pdf it can play havoc with fonts and in particular superscripts. And in this case, not all superscripts were affected – that would have been too easy to catch. Two tiny superscripts buried in a maze of tables were “adjusted” and turned from a superscript to regular text. Unless you knew what happened, it looked like the application didn’t provide a key statistic the funder requested!

Devilish Details

We’ve all been told “the devil is in the details” and “review, review, review”. Great advice that I thought I was following – especially since I’ve always been known as a “detail-oriented person”. That’s what made this error so difficult to stomach. Now I have a much better understanding of exactly how detailed that last review needs to be. The next time I submit an application, you’d better believe I’ll be on the lookout for wayward superscripts and other label surprises. The devil most certainly IS in the details.


If you have your own ghostly grant story you want to share, we’d love to hear it! Please leave it in the comment section below.

And if you’d like to read tales of woe from other grant professionals, the GrantChat community shared their greatest fears and lessons learned in 140 characters or less on #grantchat this week. You can find the Storify of the chat here:

#GrantChat Grant Horror Stories 2015




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