5 Simple Tips To Winning 25-words-or-less Competitions

The need for good English language skills (and a good vocabulary, in particular) applies to many walks of life. One of these is when you enter a 25-words-or-less competition.  A 25-words-or-less competition is where competition organisers ask you a question, which you must answer in 25 words or less (to be grammatically correct, it should be 25 words or fewer). The best answer, or answers, wins a prize. Over several years, I've entered a lot of 25-words-or-less competitions. I enter these competitions because I enjoy them. They're fun, I get to practise my creative writing skills, and, as a bonus, I might win something. During my time entering (and, more than average, winning) these 25-words-or-less competitions, I've noticed a few trends and I've gathered a few tips. Here, then, are my 5 simple tips to winning 25-words-or-less (or 25 wol) competitions.

1. Enter!

You won't win if you don't enter. Some people are put-off by 25 wol competitions. They think they will never win. They think it's too hard. They think they don't have the time or the skill.

These are all reasons for entering 25 wol competitions.

The greater the barrier to entry — the more burdensome it is for people to enter a competition — the fewer the entrants, which increases the odds for you. A random prize draw is so much easier to enter, but so much harder to win, because anyone (and everyone) can enter their details into a form. It takes more time and effort and skill to enter 25 wol competitions, which is precisely why fewer people enter. This reluctance by people to enter 25 wol competitions creates a golden opportunity for you.

As for thinking you will never win, you may be surprised! I have seen some very tame 25 wol entries win over the years. A simple, straightforward answer can win 25 wol competitions; and any answer provides a much better chance of winning than no answer at all. So, enter!

2. Read the terms and conditions

You won't win if you don't follow the rules. Or, put more accurately, you shouldn't win if you don't follow the rules: some promoters are slack and occasionally don't even know the rules of their own terms and conditions. But assuming the promoter of your 25 wol competition knows and follows the rules, then so must you follow the rules. Pay special attention to the following:

(a) Word limit

What is the word limit? Some 25 wol competitions are, in fact, 50 wol or 100 wol or 500 wol etc competitions; some are fewer than 25 wol. I like to make the most of the word limit.

If I am given 50 words, then I like to use all those words available to me. The more words that are available, the more opportunity I have to persuade the judges.

And make sure you don't exceed the word limit, even by a single word. Exceeding the word limit will, or should, lead to your disqualification. It takes time and effort and skill to create a good answer within a word limit and it's unfair for promoters to choose a winner who has had the luxury of some extra words to play with.

(b) Deadline

What is the deadline for entries? You won't win if you enter too late. So, check the deadline for your entry.

(c) Skill or chance?

Is the competition skill-based or chance-based? If it's a 25 wol competition, then the competition will almost always be counted as a skill-based competition rather than as a chance-based competition. Promoters use skill-based competitions to save their having to get lottery permits (often required for games of chance). But it is always useful to check whether the competition is a game of skill or not. There's no point wasting your time on a brilliant entry if the winning entry comes down to a random draw.

(d) Judging criteria

What are the judging criteria?

If the competition is a game of skill, then the terms and conditions should include the criteria by which the promoter or sponsor or other person will judge the entries. Usually, the criteria are something like "the most original and creative". In theory, the judges must apply their minds to each individual entry and ask themselves which entry best meets the criteria.

You need to know the criteria so you know what kind of answer to provide. For example, if the competition calls for creativity, you might decide to write a rhyming poem or use an acrostic; if the criteria are "the most moving entry and the entry that most inspires us", then you might opt for more straightfoward prose and use a story-telling structure.

(e) Number of entries

Can you enter just once or multiple times? Sometimes, promoters let you have only one attempt at winning; other times, promoters are happy for you to enter ulimited times. You're more likely to win more prizes if you enter, say, 100 competitions once each rather than one competition 100 times. So, keep that in mind!

(f) Who are the judges?

A 25 wol answer is an exercise in persuasion; and a big part of persuasion is knowing your audience: the judges.

A competition usually has several stakeholders. On one side, there's you, the entrant; and consumers more generally (consumers are being exposed, through the competition, to the business's product or brand).

On the other side, there's the business or person holding the promotion; there's the promoter (the person or company who's organising the prizes, collecting the entries, and administering the competition, which may be different from the business in whose name the competition is being held); and the sponsor (the person or company supplying the prize).

For example, Arnott's might want to hold a competition in their name but they decide to outsource the administration of the competition to a specialist promotions company. That promoter may, in turn, obtain a holiday prize (for example) from a travel agent, or whatever. Sometimes, one person or company fills more than one role (for example, the business holding the competition may also be the promoter and the sponsor).

It is important to work out which of these you are trying to persuade. In the example above, will a representative of Arnott's judge the winning entry? Or will a representative of the promotions company have that role? Or will the supplier of the prize be the judge? Sometimes, it's a combination of these; at other times, it's an independent judge or panel of judges. Whoever it is, find out so you can tailor your entry to your audience.

3. Use correct spelling and grammar

Sometimes, good spelling and grammar are part of the judging criteria. In these situations, it is essential you use correct spelling and grammar. I know of some entrants who would have otherwise won a competition except for their poor grammar and spelling. 

Even if good spelling and grammar aren't formally part of the criteria, you should still work on your spelling and grammar. Correct spelling and grammar won't lose you any points, but poor spelling and grammar may well lose you points. (Occasionally, promoters frustratingly award a prize to entries that contain appalling spelling and grammar, so promoters should improve their English language skills, too!)

4. Improve your vocabulary

We're getting to the nitty gritty now of composing your 25 wol answer. The reason you need a good vocabulary is so that you can express your ideas as precisely as possible in the fewest number of words as possible.

You need to pack as much punch as you can within your 25 words limit. So, you need a wide vocabulary: for example, a one-word choice synonym might do where otherwise you'd have to use two or three words. Also, if you're writing a rhyming poem, the more words you know, the more opportunities you have at finding a rhyming word.

You also need a deep vocabulary, so you know words' different shades of meaning. If you want to improve both the width and depth of your vocabulary, then I highly recommend you try the popular vocabulary-improvement software called Ultimate Vocabulary. Click Ultimate Vocabulary for details.*

5. Tailor your entry

If you know your audience, and the judging criteria, then you can tailor your entry accordingly.

Avoid providing stock answers to 25 wol competition questions. Stock answers are answers that you (or others) have provided many times before. They're general answers that can fit common 25 wol questions, such as "Why do you deserve to win this prize?"  Stock answers are only slightly better than no answer at all.

You want to write an entry that fits this particular competition question, this particular criteria, and this particular audience. For example, if the CEO of Coles is the judge, then you might want to tailor your answer to be an answer about Coles. If the supplier of the prize, a travel agency, is the judge then you might want to tailor your answer to that travel agency (or, better still, both).

More particularly still, if the judges are from, say, a quirky company like Dick Smith, then your answer can afford to be a little cheeky. If, on the other hand, the company is a more serious brand, like David Jones, your answer might be more serious.

On tailoring your answer to the judging criteria, if the judging criteria calls for creativity, then be creative. Ditties often do well, especially rhyming ones. Use tools like a Rhyming Dictionary to help you to find rhyming words.

This is where a good vocabulary also comes in handy. If the first word you think of doesn't have any suitable rhyming words, then check a thesaurus for alternative words.

If in doubt, consider using an acrostic of the promoter's or sponsor's name. For example, if the competition question from the hypothetical "Smith's" company is "What does value mean to you?", then create your answer from the letters of the company's name, like this:

To me, value means:

Technical know-how

And that spells SMITH'S!

So, be more confident in entering 25-words-or-less competitions, put in a little effort, and, above all, have fun! And you might just win something.

*Denise and I recommend only products that we have tried and tested. These include Ultimate Vocabulary. We have agreed to receive a commission from some sales of the Ultimate Vocabulary software because we are happy to endorse this award-winning vocabulary software.



Last modified on Friday, 11 December 2015 03:47


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