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Lesson Learned from Judging in the Chapter Competitions
2014, Q4 (September 11, 2014)
By Sheila Loring, Past Chapter President

The STC competitions offer an excellent way for you and your team to get recognition for your technical publication, web site, help system, training, and other forms of technical communication.

Coastal Heritage, Best of Show Winner
Coastal Heritage, Best of Show Winner
Competitions season begins in the Fall. Teams of judges evaluate these entries against a checklist of criteria and decide whether to nominate each entry for an award. The top award winners go on to compete for Best of Show and may enter the international competitions.

Judging helps develop your editing and writing skills. You learn to identify the elements of effective technical communication and pick up some innovative ideas from fellow technical writers.

Judge in the competitions to meet other technical communicators in the area. You might bond over evaluating that online help system together. And you'll take away interesting ideas for improving your own work.

Here a few tips judges learn during training:

Provide three positive comments for each critical comment.

Happy writer
Pointing out dozens of dangling modifiers? Also let the writer know what she did right. Perhaps the lists of related topics are especially helpful or the structure is consistent and clear. Write your feedback as if you are the writer receiving it. Don't alienate the writer, or your carefully crafted feedback won't have a positive impact.

Be specific.

Include page numbers or topic headings to provide context for your feedback. Help the writer find those dangling modifiers. If the instances are scattered throughout the entry, point out a few examples.

Be constructive.

Remember that writers pay a fee to enter the competitions. They want substantive, helpful feedback. Writers rarely get an objective view of their own work. This is your chance to give advice that someone will appreciate and use.

You might review an entry and think "This makes no sense." That comment will not help the writer. Point out how the content could be clearer or what's missing.

During the one-day training and judging session, judges pick up even more tips to apply when providing feedback on anyone's work. For 2014, the event will be held on November 15th. I hope to see you there. Visit the
Competitions home page for details about judging in the upcoming competitions.

Sheila Loring can be reached at editor at stc-carolina dot org. Read more articles by Sheila. End of article.

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