Over the weeks leading up to the 2020 Writing Competition, we will be posting interviews with some of our members who wrote on to UMLR in the 2019 Writing Competition. This series will look at the best practices for competitors to follow during the Competition and what pitfalls to avoid. The final entry in this series is an interview with Volume 75 Senior Writing Editor, Henry Moreno. While Henry didn’t compete in the 2019 Competition, as Senior Writing Editor he has been instrumental in setting up the 2020 Competition.
Q: How does the Writing Competition show who is and isn’t a good candidate for UMLR membership? In other words, what character traits are you looking to see in the Writing Competition participants this year?
A: In my opinion, the Writing Competition is meant to test two particularly important characteristics vital to successful UMLR membership: attention to detail and time management. The competition is designed to provide the participant with a wide variety of sources so they may synthesize that information into a logical and persuasive note. This necessarily tests the participant’s ability to time manage all while adhering to specific registration/eligibility, formatting, submission, and deadline requirements.
Q: Having spoken with past UMLR staff, what is the most significant mistake writing competition participants make when putting their submissions together?
A: The most significant mistake appears to be participants do not properly time manage. This primarily manifests itself through inconsistent reasoning, logical gaps, grammatical and proofreading errors. These can be remedied by allocating plenty of reading, writing, and review time at the beginning of the competition period.
Q: How important are technical criteria, such as bluebooking and grammar, relative to content criteria, such as strength and creativity of arguments?
A: We are primarily concerned with the participant’s content, analytical skill, and creativity. Bluebooking and grammar are components of the grading criteria, however, these are skills that will sharpen with practice. What we do not want to see are glaring errors that could be rectified by a thorough and thoughtful self-review.
Q: What makes a writing competition submission standout?
A: It really comes down to how well the material has been synthesized to form a logical and persuasive response. It does not matter what side of the issue is argued as long as the participant highlights and addresses weaknesses in their analysis and attempts to provide a solution or way forward.
Q: Is there anything else you think would be helpful to 2020 writing competition competitors?
A: I think the most helpful advice is to plan well in advance. Make sure you allocate a certain number of days for reading the material. Remember that you do not have to use all of the materials provided, use the ones that help you make the strongest argument for your position. Stick to your reading plan and thoroughly outline the cases. Build in a few days before submission strictly for reviewing your work.