Writing Tips to Ring in Hallmark Awards Season

‘Tis the season for preparing your Hallmark Award applications. The Honors Study Topic has been explored; extensive research has been conducted; Honors in Action and College Projects have been planned and implemented. You’ve made it to the final step: preparing the submission entry.

The Hallmark Award application alone will determine the success of your Honors in Action and College Projects on an international awards level. They are also the lone determinants of the winners of Individual Hallmark Awards.

“Hallmark Awards are judged solely on the award applications, so it is imperative that your entry be well-written and concise,” said Susan Edwards, Phi Theta Kappa’s Dean of Academic Affairs and Honors Programs. “This quote from Nelson Mandela feels especially relevant this time of year: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ “

Edwards shared six writing tips from Daniel Pink, best-selling author of Drive and To Sell is Human.

  1. Show up. Get to work even when you don’t feel like writing — especially when you don’t feel like writing.
  2. Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum. (Look it up: It’s a law of literary physics.)
  3. Don’t do anything else until you’ve written 500 words. I mean it. (“Though it may be more reasonable through the Honors in Action process to do 200-250 words at a time,” Edwards said.)
  4. Move. Some of my best ideas come when I’m climbing the stairs of my house or running in my neighborhood.
  5. Once you’ve produced a semi-credible draft of a section or chapter, have someone read it to you aloud. Hearing your words can help, even if it hurts.
  6. Remember that writing, though solitary, is also social. You’re making a promise to readers (“and to your chapters and your college,” Edwards added). Honor that promise.

Below are some helpful tips as you begin preparing your Hallmark Award applications. While some of these tips focus on the Chapter Award applications, they can apply to Individual Award applications as well.

“Show,” don’t “tell.” Telling a judge something is “true” leaves the judge wondering, “How do I know this is the case?”

  • It is colder in Latvia in the winter than in Iceland.
  • Izzie is our hardest worker and the greatest asset.

Showing the judge something is “true” by way of a citation or some kind of evidence that shows the assertion has merit leaves no doubt.

  • The online World Almanac (2014) shows a colder average high temperature of -10 degrees C in January in Riga than the average high of -2 degrees C in Reykjavik.
  • Izzie effectively led our Honors in Action team this year by recruiting five members to serve on our research team, by inviting the college’s research librarian to conduct a workshop for the team on academic research, and by setting up a DropBox folder and sharing it with all chapter members so they could follow our progress throughout the year.

Utilize the Hallmark Award Resources. Take a look at the Honors in Action and College Projects excerpts posted online to see what top chapters wrote last year.

Remember the purposes of the Honors in Action and College Project entries. Be sure you are expressing the work your chapter did to support those purposes as you write your entry.

Brainstorm with your team and/or chapter to be sure you have everything needed to answer each question in your entry. Look at how the information you have gathered as you planned, implemented and completed your Honors in Action and College Projects meets the judging rubrics requirements and outline what information you will use to answer each question. This is a good way to celebrate what you have achieved and consider what you have learned and how you have grown as scholars and leaders who serve your communities.

Be sure to examine academic sources of varied viewpoints. They don’t have to be opposite of one another, but they should show a range of ideas.

Honors in Action is all about the Honors Study Topic. Remember to always go back to Frontiers and the Spirit of Exploration as you consider your theme and the elements of your project.

Be sure to read and re-read the judging rubrics to explain in detail how you met each criterion. The Hallmark Awards application questions and rubrics (found on the applications) provide guidance and outline everything a winning entry should include. Be detailed in your answers in ways that help judges understand the process you followed.

Do not restate the questions in your answers. Doing so eats away at your word count. The judges will see the questions with the answers when they review the applications.

Always check for the tricky “and” in the question. Answering every part of the question is imperative. Don’t leave anything out.

Leave enough time to edit, edit, edit, edit. Read the entry aloud together at some point during the editing process so you will know if the entry reads the way you want.

Celebrate with a live reading. When you have completed and submitted your Hallmark Award entries, host a reception or party at which you read each aloud. You can invite college administrators, faculty and community members who have helped you with your Honors in Action and College Projects. AND, it gives you an opportunity to celebrate the individuals and teams you have nominated.

Remember, Individual Hallmark Award applications are due January 13, 2016, and Chapter Hallmark Award applications are due January 27, 2016.

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