A lot of participants take part in an essay competition.  Only one is awarded first. There is nothing that feels better than winning a writing contest. Winning an essay contest is especially poignant because it lets you gain recognition for arguing for something you believe in. However, no matter how much you believe in what you’re writing, you won’t win on passion alone. Winning an essay contest requires flawless craftsmanship, careful adherence to the rules, and a novel hook to get the attention of the judges.

Follow the Instructions:

1. Above all else, follow the rules! If you are over the word limit by even one word, you will probably be disqualified. If the essay contest states that all essays have to begin with the word “I believe,” and yours starts with “I firmly believe,” you will probably be disqualified. It doesn’t matter how good your essay is if they don’t read it because you broke the rules.

2. Brainstorm. Come up with as many ideas as you can before you start writing. The more different ways you can imagine addressing the essay topic, the more flexibility you will have when you start writing it.

3. If possible, look at previous winning essays. This will give you a good idea of what the judges are looking for. Some essay contests are looking for a certain message or a particular style. Other contests value unconventionality and innovation. You will have a better chance of winning if you give them what they want.

4. Come up with a good hook. Particularly with short essays, you win or lose it in the first sentence or two. Ask your reader a question that will get her thinking, or introduce a perspective she may have not have thought about before. Remember, the judges will be reading a lot of essays. Make yours stand out from the first sentence.

5. Make sure that your spelling, grammar, and punctuation are flawless. If you are entering essay in a contest, the judges will expect it to be perfect. Leaving in grammatical mistakes or awkward sentences looks like laziness. Be sure to have a friend proofread it for you, then look it over one more time yourself.

6. Be confident. Don’t hedge by making excessive use of phrases like “I think” or “it seems to me.” Convince yourself that what you have to say is important, and write your contest essay With that knowledge.

(**The essay is connoted by Isaiah David, who is a freelance writer and musician living in Portland, Ore. He has nearly five years’ experience as a professional writer and has been published on various online outlets. He holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan.)

Discover Your Possibilities

September 8, 2010