Resource Toolkit: Fonts and Spacing in NIH Applications

As research administrators, we aim to prevent errors on proposal submissions.  Whether that involves reviewing budgetary or scientific documents or ensuring compliance with specific proposal requirements, we often overlook the simple formatting guidelines that are applicable to all NIH proposals.

While we rarely see proposals rejected because of this, when we do, it is usually days after submission, once CSR has completed their review.  At this point, the deadline has passed; therefore, making corrections to the proposal is impossible.  Because of this, it is important that investigators, department administrators, and central office personnel are all aware of these guidelines while developing and reviewing the proposal.

The guidelines concerning fonts and line spacing are fairly simple, but determining the difference between a compliant and a non-compliant document can be difficult.  The following is a non-exhaustive list of potential stylistic violations:

  • Use of a font type that is not on the recommended list
  • Changing the line spacing
  • Changing the spacing between characters

Each of these changes can cause an otherwise compliant proposal to be rejected without review.  While these modifications can be difficult to detect during a quick review, the NIH thoroughly checks for line/character density before assigning the proposal to an agency.

Below are the NIH recommendations:

  • Font size – Must be size 11 or larger
  • Type Density – No more than 15 characters per linear inch
  • Line Spacing – No more than 6 lines per vertical inch
  • Text Color – No restriction
  • Recommended Fonts
    • Arial
    • Georgia
    • Helvetica
    • Palatino Linotype

Please visit the NIH website for more information: NIH Guidelines and FAQ.