Editing Research Grant Proposals: An interview with our guest speaker, Letitia Henville 

Interview by Marta Orellana; copy edited by Janet Millar

On January 19, Letitia Henville will start off our 2022 monthly member meetings with a presentation on a specific subset of academic editing—editing research grant proposals. She will be sharing tips and tricks with those interested in or already working in this field. 

Let’s get to know our presenter!

Hello, Letitia! Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What are your hobbies, passions, and favourite things to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon?

I work part-time with graduate students in the Faculty of Arts at UBC and part-time in my own businesses, Writing Short is Hard (my academic editing business) and antihustle.ca (my resource site for pragmatic anti-capitalists, which I’m hoping to turn into a social-profit enterprise in 2022).

I also write the monthly academic editing advice column, “Ask Dr. Editor,” for UBC University Affairs and serve on the board of directors for the Vancouver Art Book Fair.

When I’m not working, I can be found gardening, petting other peoples’ dogs, visiting the beach at night, or making strange fruit preserves like strawberry margarita jam (delicious) and blueberry ketchup (less so). 

How did you get started in your niche of editing academic research grant proposals?  

After I finished my PhD in poetry in 2015, I knew I didn’t have the right temperament to become a professor, so I applied my love of words to structural, stylistic, and developmental editing.

I was lucky to receive excellent advice, training, and support from generous colleagues at Editors BC like Heather van der Hoop and Frances PeckErin Parker was the first person to welcome me into the Editors Canada fold, and I am eternally grateful to her for doing so.

I worked as a research grants facilitator in a small health sciences department at UBC for about three years, editing over $4 million in successful funding applications to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and then became a volunteer advisor for the Vancouver Foundation’s System Change Grants.

Grant applications are now my favourite type of project to work on. 

Many editors may feel like this particular field is out of reach if they do not specialize in the subject matter. What would you advise these editors?

I edit exclusively in fields outside of my subject matter expertise. I’ve never edited a piece of writing in my academic field—narrative poetry of the 1890s—and probably never will, because I’d have too many distracting opinions about the content to be able to focus on its expression.

To be able to edit academic writing well, I recommend spending some time with Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing (Harvard University Press, 2012) as well as with books that can help you to understand academic readers and their norms—perhaps Patricia Matthew’s Written/Unwritten(UNC Press, 2016) and Michèle Lamont’s How Professors Think (Harvard University Press, 2010).

For my column, I regularly read peer-reviewed research about academic research and writing, which helps me to keep on top of evidence-based best practices, and I’d definitely recommend that to others, too.

This spring, I’ll be releasing a 12-part course called Editing Academic Research Grants in Canada. Folks who would like to be notified when that is available should sign up for my newsletter, “The Shortlist.” 

What do you hope attendees will take away from the presentation?

II’ll be sharing some of my favourite tips and tricks for working with academics on research grant proposals, including some of my preferred strategies for getting clients in this ever-growing field.

As I write the responses to these interview questions, I haven’t yet prepared my slides, so if anyone has questions about any aspect of research grant proposal editing, I’d love to hear them.

You can get in touch with me through my website or on Twitter @shortishard

We are looking forward to hearing you speak at the next member meeting, Letitia!


Marta Orellana lives in North Vancouver, BC. She is a copy editor, translator, and proofreader, specializing in Web writing and editing as well as academic and technical writing. Marta is also a French Immersion teacher and a polyglot, whose love of language is what has driven her appreciation for the written word.

Janet Millar (she/her) is a teacher, editor, and writer living on Lkwungen territory in Victoria, B.C. Her writing has been published (under Janet Kellough-Pollock) in Herizons and the United Church Observer. She was recently invited to receive mentoring from poet Annick MacAskill in Arc Magazine‘s Poet-in-Residence program. Janet is a writing consultant at Camosun College, where she works with both English first-language and multilingual students, and she edits on a volunteer basis for the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre and Editors Canada. 

Image provided by Letitia Henville

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