Judging Criteria

2021 Annual Writing Contest

Click here for a pdf version of the Judging Criteria. The following is taken from the judge’s scoring sheet:

Each work can achieve a maximum of 100 points. Each criterion is scored from 1-10, with 1 being the lowest and ten being perfect. With the exception of criterion #1, judges should consider a score of 7 points per criterion (an overall score of 70) as average.

Needs Much Work


1. Formatting: (for every item failed, subtract 3 points)

  • Was it in Times New Roman font?
  • Was the body of the text 12-point size? (Title may be 14-point.)
  • If prose, was it double-spaced?
  • If poetry, was it double- or single-spaced?

2. Spelling, Capitalization, Punctuation, Grammar & Syntax

  • Except as required for literary effect, were spelling, capitalization & punctuation standard?
  • Did subjects and verbs agree, were verb tenses consistent, were pronouns unambiguous?
  • Was word order straightforward and did sentences flow smoothly?
  • Were intentional deviations from convention consistent?

3. Organization

  • Was the material presented in an orderly fashion which built without the need to backtrack, and without redundancy?
  • Were shifts in focus successfully signalled by sentence changes, new paragraphs and scene/stanza breaks?


4. Theme

  • Was the entry representative of its stated category?
  • If a Formed poem, did it adhere to guidelines?
  • How unique was the idea (the matter being told)?
  • How fresh was the perspective or presentation (the manner in which it was told)?

5. Opening Hook

  • How well did the opening capture your attention and set the stage for what followed?

6. Pacing & Form

  • How well did the work move, not becoming stagnant or devolving into tangents?
  • How appreciable was the arc (conflict presentation, struggle, and resolution)?
  • How compelling was the conflict, and was it truly central to the story?

7. Voice

  • How clear and consistent was the narrator’s voice?
  • How precise, colorful and evocative were the word choices and phrasings?
  • Was dialogue (where present) realistic?

8. Characters

  • How credible, consistent and appropriate to the genre were the characters?
  • How well did the protagonist or narrator gain your empathy for the events described?
  • How well did the author make the work relatable/relevant to your own life?

9. Realism

  • How detailed and realistic was the work?
  • How easily were you able to suspend disbelief if out-of-the-ordinary circumstances were presented?
  • How deftly did the author provide background material, avoiding heavy-handed information dumps?

10. Emotional Response

  • How strong an emotional response did the work evoke?
  • How well did it capture thoughts/feelings you’ve had before, or succeed in transporting you to someplace you’d never been?

COMMENTS: (This is the most important section for contestants. Since winning is limited to the few, substantive, constructive feedback is the greatest overall benefit of entering. Based on your assessments of the writer’s performance in the above criteria, please give detailed and constructive feedback to benefit their efforts to further their expertise, taking as much space as needed.)

Click here to return to the Main Contest Page.

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