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What's in it For Me? Judge in the Chapter Competitions
2012, Q1 (March 29, 2012)
By Sheila Loring, Carolina Communiqué Managing Editor

photo of a judge taking notes
A judge taking notes
Every fall, the chapter competitions provides invaluable opportunities to technical writers. Those who submit their work receive feedback on topics such as content structure, writing and editing skills, indexing, and graphical elements. Such input, on the job, is rare.

The writers who volunteer to judge spend hours pouring over 1000-page references, robust online Help systems, training manuals, and technical magazines. Why? To help fellow writers develop their skills? To provide constructive feedback that writers crave?

Yes, competitions judges are a generous lot. But why spend hours combing through technical publications when you could be reading a fun book or scaling Stone Mountain?

Ann-Marie Grissino, Christina Eftehkar, and Betsy Kent can tell you why.

Opportunities to Meet Mentors

Should you recognize people who are good at what they do?

Should you surround yourself with mentors who are at the top of their field?

Should you be emulate the best of the best?


The STC Chapter Competitions provides these opportunities and more.

I find my mentors through the STC Competition.

I want to see the best writers, the best Help systems, the best tutorials.

I want to emulate the best.

Look around you at the STC Competitions and you’ll see the people who are at the top of their fields.

These should be YOUR mentors.

-- Ann-Marie Grissino

Professional Recognition and Off-the-Job Training

The first year I participated in the chapter competitions, I had begun documenting database drivers for my current employer, DataDirect Technologies, now a division of Progress Software. Ann-Marie Grissino, then on the competitions committee, recruited me to help with the online competition. She used a Microsoft Access database to monitor information on the entries. Managing the entries and running queries in the database gave me some context for what I was writing about at work. The experience also helped me to ask intelligent questions of my subject matter experts.

More recently, after one of our manuals won a Distinguished award, I wrote "Floating on Cloud 9" on my white board. One of my developer friends asked if that was about my recent vacation. I said, "No, a vacation is just a vacation, but an award goes on your permanent record!" When he asked if I ever judged, I replied, "Sure, I've been doing that for years." He was impressed that I actively participate in events in my profession.

-- Betsy Kent

Practice the Art of Providing Constructive Feedback

For me, judging in the competitions is a great way to put my expertise to good use and also see what the leaders in the field are doing. Over the past few years, I have enjoyed providing the kind of feedback I would want to receive, and in return I am able to see what new ideas I can implement in my own projects. The annual competition is a great venue for sharing best practices and improving the industry as a whole.

-- Christina Eftekhar

Pick Up Tips

Some years back, as a judge, I evaluated a template for a piece of hardware. I was a contract writer for a Very Large Company, writing hardware installation manuals. Immediately, I realized that the product I was working on would be vastly easier to install if the users had a template to line things up. The project manager was impressed by the idea and by my initiative, and told me to start prototyping. Impressing your manager is always a good thing.

Some years when I judge, I spend way more time on one entry than all of the others combined, because I admire the writing. Most of my writing is of the "Press Enter because I said so" variety. When I encounter an entry that achieves a friendly tone without risking the use of humor, I try to figure how the writers achieved the tone so I can improve my own writing.

-- Betsy Kent

Check future editions of the Carolina Communiqué for testimonials from more competitions judges. Ready to judge? Volunteer by emailing competitions at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

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