How it works
BWI’s annual contest is judged by peers and rewards excellence in journalism in 15 categories from fishing to travel, photography to videos, and more. The contest draws hundreds of entries and awards $15,000 annually in cash prizes.
The contest takes place between November and January each year, with categories that each award $500 for first place, $300 for second place, and $200 for third place. Those winners are announced at the Miami International Boat Show each February.
Each Contest category has a specific scoring sheet used by four judges to evaluate the writing. There are ten scoring criteria for each entry; judges are asked to rate each entry in ten “grading areas.” Judges read as a teacher might, marking a paper using an A-to-F grading system. A’s are 90-100, B’s 80-89, C’s 70-79, D’s 60-69 and 59 or below would score an F, or failing grade. The scale seeks to create a cohesive judging process, where top entries receive “high marks” versus those judged less favorably.
Here are the criteria drawn from a sample scoring sheet:
- How complex is the story? Does the author use solid knowledge of the subject or information from multiple sources to craft a balanced and informative piece?
- Is the lead effective? Does the introduction draw the reader into the story?
- Does the story flow well? Good transitions? Good structure?
- Is it well researched? Accurate (or has the writer relied on press releases)?
- Is there a distinctive personality? Or voice?
- Effective use of language, metaphor, imagery, sentence structure?
- Beyond the basics of reporting the story, is there originality? A fresh approach?
- Is the story fair?
- How well does the story accomplish its intended mission? Does it entertain? Educate? Inspire?
- Finally, how well did the judge like it personally?
The 2021 BWI Annual Contest Winners
The BWI Writing Awards, presented for 29 years, attracted 95 participants submitting 273 entries. In addition to cash awards, 30 Certificates of Merit were presented to other entrants who scored close to the third-place tallies in each category. All submissions to the contest were published in 2021. Each of the categories was judged by four active journalists in the first few weeks of the New Year. Complete results are posted on this website at https://www.bwi.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/BWIReleaseContestWinners2021.pdf