Youth Development & Agricultural Education

Instructions and Rules

Townsend Writing Excellence Competition

Developing a Winning Entry


The best writing entries are those that crisply address an interesting or compelling topic related broadly to food, agriculture or the environment. A strong entry will exhibit originality, unique expression, accuracy and "brightness." Finally, entries should be written for and easily understandable to a non-technical audience.

When selecting and preparing your entry, consider how it addresses the seven criteria contained in the Writing Criteria and Rubric. Competitive entries will score high on all or most of the criteria.

Advice from Our Judges

Advice from our judges in past years reveals that they like a creative and compelling introduction, but it needs to get to the point quickly. As one judge said, "If I get beyond the first paragraph and don't know why I'm reading, that's a problem." Judges also said they liked concise, focused entries that told a story rather than broad or general discussions. They recommended that writers visit the Purdue Writing Lab for a consultation before submitting their entry into the competition. It's free and can help improve your submission and your writing.

Entry Preparation


  • Your writing entry must be submitted as a Word document.
  • Double-space entries and use 12-point Times New Roman or Arial font with one-inch margins.
  • Include a cover page that lists your name, major, email address and title of your submission. Repeat the title at the top of the second page, centered above the beginning of your text. Do not list your name in your submission anywhere other than the cover page.
  • Make sure your entry is between 500 and 1200 words. Concise submissions are strongly encouraged.
  • Include a "References" page at the end of your submission formatted according to APA style.

Entry Rules


Once entries are received, the cover page will be removed to maintain anonymity. Entries will undergo blind review (the judges will not know the names of contest participants). The top three entries across all writing genres will be selected for recognition. Winners and advisors will be notified of the awards via email.
  • The Townsend Writing Excellence Competition is open to fulltime undergraduate students in good academic standing in the Purdue University College of Agriculture and the College of Health and Human Sciences.
  • The top three contestants will receive a scholarship from the Townsend Communication in Agriculture Program. Cash awards listed are minus any outstanding Purdue University tuition or fees.
  • Submissions should be original work developed by the contestant within the last academic year.
  • Submissions must be between 500 and 1200 words and address a topic or issue related to food, agriculture or the environment.
  • Submissions must be written for non-expert audiences such as consumers, farmers, students or other lay audiences. See the Writing Criteria and Rubric for additional information.
  • There is no entry fee; one entry is allowed per contestant.
  • Students must work individually; team entries are not allowed.
  • Purdue University College of Agriculture undergraduate students are permitted to submit a single entry in both Townsend communication competitions.
  • For work that has been published, contestants must submit a draft that reflects only their own writing and editing - professionally edited entries are not allowed.
  • Entries must be submitted online by entering your Purdue Career Account Login when prompted and completing the Townsend Writing Excellence Competition Entry Form. The submission deadline is Monday April 17, 2017, 5:00 p.m.
  • Late entries will not be accepted. Entries may not be revised after submission.
  • Submissions will be blind-reviewed by the contest judges.
  • To avoid disqualification, submissions must conform to the instructions and rules provided here.
  • Winners and their winning entries may be featured on the Townsend Communication in Agriculture Program website and featured in College of Agriculture curricula and publications.

Competition Supervisor and Contact:
Dr. Mark Tucker - matucker@purdue.edu / 765-494-8439