Over the years, our judges see many common errors that cause them to reject an entry before they’ve read more than a paragraph or two. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to avoid that. Here are some tips:
- Use spell check. This will catch most spelling mistakes. You will still need to hunt for mistakes like “its,” “it’s,” “their,” “they’re,” “hole,” “whole,” etc.
- Ask others to read and critique your piece. Avoid your family or good friends – they may not want to criticize your work. Instead, look for other students you know are good writers. Maybe you can form a critique group! (Ask us how).
- Print your piece and re-read it. Then read it out loud. You’ll catch awkward phrasing or silly dialogue.
- Don’t rely on a thesaurus. Varied vocabulary is good, but don’t use big words just to look impressive.
- Use Your Own Voice! It’s your story or your poem. Don’t be afraid to be funny, sarcastic, angry, happy, or sad.
- Give it a unique title. Good titles can really catch the eye. This is especially important if you are writing something as a class assignment. If the assignment is to write a poem about the color purple, don’t name your piece, “the color purple.” Everyone does that and judges don’t want to read fifteen poems with the same title. They start skimming. Make your piece stand out. Here are some good examples from last year:
Predecessor to Successor
Ode to a Flower in the Cracked Ground
How Ketchup was Born