Formatting Guide

For an NIH grant proposal, there are four allowable fonts: Palatino, Georgia, Arial and Helvetica. NIH requires a font size of 11 or larger. You may use the Symbol font for Greek letters and special characters, however; the font size requirement still applies. We strongly recommend using the Symbol font for Greek letters rather than using the insert symbol option (from the Insert menu). Inserted symbols often do not appear correctly when documents are opened on different operating systems (they look like this ). A smaller font size is allowed for figures, graphs, diagrams, charts, tables, figure legends, and footnotes, but the allowable fonts must still be used, and the text must be legible (in most cases, we suggest that you do not use a font size smaller than 9). We suggest the font Georgia for these sections, as it is the most legible at a smaller size.

Before you begin writing any grant application, turn off your word processor’s auto formatting features. Most granting agencies have strict regulations about size of text, spacing, margins, and fonts. By turning off auto formatting, you ensure that you have complete control over how your document will be formatted, thereby making it easier to ensure that you meet all agency specifications.

In Microsoft Word 2003, turn off auto formatting by:

  1. Select Tools from Word.
  2. Select AutoCorrect Options.
  3. Select the AutoFormat tab, and uncheck the following:
    • Built-in Heading styles
    • List Styles
    • Automatic bulleted lists
    • Other paragraph styles
  4. Select the AutoFormat As You Type tab and uncheck all options for Apply as you type and Automatically as you type. You can uncheck more options, but these are essential.

Before you begin, you should also adjust the document’s margins. You can do this by:

  1. Select File.
  2. Select Page Setup.
  3. Select the Margins tab. For an NSF application, set the margins no lower than 1". For NIH, set them no lower than 0.5". Do not use a negative indent.

The last step before beginning to write is to set the default font for your application. Each funding agency has allowable fonts and font sizes. The specifications for your grant proposal can be found in the program announcement (PA) or request for applications (RFA) or on the website of your funding agency. To set the default font:

  1. Select Format.
  2. Select Font. Select the appropriate font and size and click the Default button in the lower left-hand corner of the dialogue box. A box will pop up asking to confirm. Press "Yes."