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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Q: Can I enter a PDF file in the competition?

A: Definitely! PDF files can be entered into the Online or the Technical Publications competitions, depending on how the file will be used. If the document is designed to be completely used as an online application, enter it in the Online competition. If the document is designed to be printed out, enter it in the Technical Publications competition. The entry will be judged according to the criteria of the competition you entered it in; no special considerations are given to PDF files.

Q: Which competition is a better fit for my PDF?

A: In electronic form, a PDF can only be entered in the Online competition. If the document is designed to be completely used as an online application, this is the right place for it. Note that no special considerations are given to PDF files, and that your PDF will be judged using the same criteria used to judge other Online entries.

Conversely, if your PDF document is designed to be printed out, you should enter it in the Technical Publications Competition. For that, you need to deliver three printed, bound copies by the deadline. The Technical Publications Competition will not accept soft copy entries.

Please read the information for delivering your entry. If you enter the Online competition, you need to set up your entry for the Consensus Judging event. If you enter the Technical Publications competition, you need to deliver three printed, bound copies by the deadline. The Technical Publications Competition will not accept soft copy entries, and will not evaluate any online features of the PDF entry.

Q: Will I receive any feedback from on my entry?

A: Yes, all judging teams complete judging forms for each entry they judge. You will receive a copy of the completed form whether you win an award or not. This peer feedback is considered one of important benefits of the competition. It is one of the reasons the STC holds yearly competitions.

Q: Can I be a judge if I am also submitting an entry?

A: Yes, you can both submit an entry and be a judge. Of course, you cannot judge your own entry. The committee does make an effort to ensure that judges do not judge their own entries. However, please let your team leader or a committee member know if you find yourself on a team assigned to your own entry or an entry from a company or organization you are associated with.

Q: My company is submitting entries. What happens if I am assigned to judge something my company wrote?

A: When you register to judge, you should fill out the Affiliated Companies section. You should enter your current company, and any companies that you have worked for in the past few years. This information allows us to assign entries to teams without creating any conflicts of interest.

Q: Can I judge in more than one competition?

A: Yes, you can judge in the Online Communication, Technical Art, and/or the Technical Publications Competitions. If you can meet the time commitment, judging in more than one competition will give you an opportunity to see what your peers are doing in different media.

Q: I am new to the technical writing field. Do I need to have a certain amount of professional experience to participate as a volunteer?

A: Anyone, including students in technical writing, can participate as a volunteer. Contact a member of the Online Communication, Technical Art, or Technical Publications committees or to volunteer. However, to be a judge, STC does require that you have some professional experience in the field.

Q: Do I have to be an STC member to submit an entry or to judge?

A: You do not have to be an STC member either to submit a competition entry or to be a judge. The STC welcomes both members and non-member in the technical communication field.

Q: When I fill out the entry form, what should I put in the Audience, Purpose, and Notes to Judges sections?

A: For the Audience, provide information about who will use the document, and how they will use it. Will it be used in a manufacturing environment by assembly technicians? Will it be used by software developers? Will it be used by the general public? The information you enter here helps judges determine if the entry meets the needs of the specific audience.

For the Purpose, provide information about what the user will accomplish with the entry. Is it designed to show users how to use each and every option in an application? Is it a reference book that will only be used occasionally? Is it supposed to teach concepts rather than provide instructions?

For the Notes to Judges section, provide any information that you think will help the judges fairly evaluate the entry. Is it a normally delivered on CD as a PDF file and you printed it out for the competition? Is it one book in a set of modular documentation? Is it an internal document and uses terms specific to your company that might not be recognized by an external audience?

The more information you provide to the judges, the better they will be able to determine if your entry meets the needs of its attended audience.

Online Communication Questions

Q: Can I enter a PDF file in the Online Communication competition?

A: Definitely! Remember that your entry will be judged according to the criteria of the Online competition; no special considerations are given to PDF files. Please read the information for delivering your entry. You will need to set up your entry for the Consensus Judging event.

Q: What are the Online Awards? Which level of awards are sent to the International Competition?

A: The awards and an explanation of each are as follows:

  • DistinguishedMostly exceptional
  • ExcellenceVery good to excellent
  • MeritVery good with no major flaws

Judges select one Best of Show winner from the Distinguished award entries. Best of Show and all other Distinguished award entries go on to the International Competition.

Q. I am submitting my piece as a Web entry and expect the judges to review the entry from the URL. Why do I need to submit a CD?

A: Starting in 2003, the Online Committee is requiring all entrantseven Web entrantsto submit a CD. Although judges will judge your entry from your Web site, they will do all Best of Show Judging from CDs. Best of Show judging occurs on Competition Day with all Online and Web Competition judges participating.

Q: My company recently updated an online help that we submitted last year. Can we resubmit the piece this year?

A: If the piece was significantly rewritten, you can submit it. In particular, you can submit work with a new version number, since it is actually a new piece. If you did only minor updates, you should not resubmit the piece. The rules of the International Online Communication Competition, which we try to follow, state that the work must be "substantially rewritten."

Q: My company plans to submit several pieces. Can we set up more than one entry on a computer?

A: No, you cannot enter more than one entry on a computer. Every Online entry requires a separate computer setup.

Q. My entry is on my company's Web site. Should I submit it as a Web entry or as an Online entry?

A: The decision is up to you. Remember, Web entrants must make their Web sites available to judges for several weeks prior to Competition Day. Online entrants submit their entries on a computer, which they must bring to Competition Day before the judges arrive. At the end of Competition Day, Online entrants must pick up their computers.

Q: It is difficult for me to bring my Online entry on a computer for consensus judging. Since we are submitting CDs, can I just submit my CD for the competition instead of setting it up on a computer?

A: Unfortunately, the STC Online Competition Committee does not have any computers for entries nor does the committee have the resources to set up entries. Online entrants must load each of their entries on a separate computer and deliver their computers on the morning of Competition Day. At the competition location, they will have the opportunity to set up their computers and make their entries accessible. If you find you are personally unable to bring in your entry, perhaps someone else in your department or company can help.

Q: In the past, I submitted a scenario with my entry. There is no mention of it in the entry instructions. Isn't the scenario still required?

A: This year, the Online Competition Committee decided to eliminate scenarios. Instead, you should put important information in the Notes to Judges section when you register online. This information should include how to start your entry and its intended audience. The committee will provide judges with a copy of your Notes to Judges for the entries they are judging. If you need to include last-minute information, you may print additional Notes to Judges to leave next to your computer at the competition.

Q: Do all Online Competition judges have to attend Orientation?

A: The Online Competition Committee strongly urges all judges to attend the Orientation. However, if you were an Online judge last year, orientation is not required. Since the judging format changed to consensus judging last year, the committee believes those who did not judge last year should attend the Orientation to understand the consensus-judging format.

Q: How much of a time commitment is being an Online judge?

A: The approximate time commitment is 10 hours. For new Online judge, this includes a 2-hour Orientation session a few weeks before the competition. If you judge on-site on competition day, the actual judging then takes about 8 hours. If you judge remotely by URL, you must review your assigned Web sites before the competition, then attend the afternoon consensus judging sessions on competition day.

Q: I have never judged anything before. Does it matter?

A: If you are a technical communicator and have written or contributed to an online or Web project, you are eligible to be an Online judge. We have specific judging criteria and Online Judge Training that will help you develop your judging skills. We will group you with more experienced judges and a lead judge.

Q: I am unable to judge on Competition Day. Are there other ways I could participate as a volunteer?

A: Although being an Online judge does require that you attend the competition, there are many ways to participate as a volunteer. Contact a member of the Online Committee or Ellen Lidington. One possibility is joining the Online Committee for the 2004 Competition.

Technical Publications Questions

Q: Can I enter a PDF file in the Technical Publications competition?

A: Definitely! Remember that PDF files will be judged according to the Technical Publications criteria; no special considerations are given to PDF files.

Please read the information for delivering your entry. You will need to deliver three printed, bound copies by the deadline. The Technical Publications Competition will not accept soft copy entries, and will not evaluate the online features of the PDF entry.

Q: If I sign up to be a judge, what kinds of documents will I be assigned?

A: You will receive a variety of types of documents. You might receive a software guide for a video editing application, a hardware guide for a medical product, installation instructions for a software application, and a quick reference card. We try very hard to make sure no judging team has more than one document from the same company, and that each team has a variety of sizes of documents. The variety gives judges the chance to see different types of documents and reduces the temptation to compare entries. For companies that submit more than one entry, it gives them comments from many judges.

Q: I've never worked with hardware. How can I judge a hardware manual?

A: You judge a hardware manual the same way your would judge a software manual. Are the instructions clear and concise? Do the steps in procedures follow a logical order? Is the manual structured logically? Are the explanations clear? Do the graphics contribute to understanding? Are there unnecessary digressions?

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