Writing Your Winning Entry: Tips for Success

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Entering an award competition can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. The Aberdeen City and Shire Thistle Awards have specific guidelines and word limits, making it essential to showcase your organisation effectively.

Let’s explore practical strategies for creating an impactful entry that catches the judges’ attention.

Decode the Questions

Before you dive into writing, dissect the questions. Read them carefully, then read them again – just like your teachers at school drummed into you before an exam! And, read all the questions before you begin so that you give the correct information for each question. Our judges frequently tell us that people often cover some excellent points in their executive summary (which does not attract any score) but fail to include them in an answer to a subsequent question where they would have scored highly with that information.  Ensure you understand precisely what each question is asking. Avoid veering off-topic. Allocate ample time for writing and allow your brilliance to shine through.

Answer with Precision

It may sound elementary, but it’s crucial: answer the question directly. Judges appreciate concise responses that address the prompts. Resist the temptation to share unrelated information. Again, judges do tell us about entrants who want to tell every detail of their business history. Tell the judges what they ask – and not what you necessarily want to tell them! Remember, you’ll be evaluated solely based on your answers.

Back It Up

Your statements need substance. Provide evidence to substantiate your achievements. While this might seem daunting, focus on the most impressive aspects. Condense your accomplishments into impactful points. Numbers, testimonials, and concrete examples all carry evidential weight.

Show Me the Numbers: Evidence-Based Progress

When crafting your award entry, statistics matter. Judges want to see tangible progress. Instead of vague claims like “we’ve improved significantly,” dive into the data – and explain what metrics you have used:

  • Visitor Numbers: How many more people engaged with your project?
  • Waste Recycling: Quantify the impact—tons recycled, reduced landfill waste.
  • New Projects: Highlight your innovation—how many new initiatives sprouted?
  • Percentage Changes: Whether it’s an increase or decrease, percentages add weight.

Stick to the Script - Format Matters

Resist the urge to go ‘off script.’ The award submission format isn’t arbitrary; it guides judges to essential information. Follow these rules:

  • Word Count: Stick to it. Concise, focused entries are appreciated.
  • System: Use the specified system – but it’s always a good idea to draft it off line first.
  • Look to the Experts: Read through the criteria provided – you will only be judges on these.

Plain Talk Wins - Minimise Jargon

Avoid jargon overload—it’s like bragging in a foreign language. Opt for straightforward language:

  • Clarity: Make sure your writing is easy to understand.
  • Impact: Describe how your project positively affected the company.
  • Down-to-Earth: Share what you did without the fluff.

Dos and Don’ts


Read the Questions Carefully:

  • Understand each question thoroughly. Revisit them to ensure clarity.
  • Allocate ample time for thoughtful responses.

Answer Directly:

  • Address the prompts precisely. Avoid going off-topic.
  • Focus solely on the questions asked.

Provide Evidence:

  • Back up your statements with data and examples.
  • Quantify achievements—numbers speak volumes.

Choose the Right Category:

  • Explore specialised themes beyond the obvious.
  • Look at all the possible categories – you can enter as many as are relevant to you but tailor your answers to category selection.


Collaborate and Seek Feedback:

  • Involve colleagues for fresh perspectives.
  • Review almost-final drafts to fine-tune.


Rush the Process:

  • Prioritise quality over speed.
  • Avoid last-minute scrambles.

Use Jargon Excessively:

  • Keep language clear and concise.
  • Minimise technical terms.

Stray from Format:

  • Stick to word counts and specified systems.
  • Don’t provide collage images as we can’t use there – provide single high res images.

Forget the Evidence:

  • Substance matters more than style.
  • Back up claims with proof.

Creating a winning entry takes the right approach. This means that planning and taking your time is vital. If you follow the tips and advice above, you will give yourself the best chance of finding success in the 2024 ACSTA awards!