Tuesday 20 July 2010

Tackling tiebreakers

Those who have loved competitions for as long as I have often look back nostalgically to a time a few years ago when tiebreaker competitions were one of the most popular types. We spent our spare time trying to say, in no more than 15 apt, original and amusing words, why Parker’s Pork Pies and Plumptons’ Perfect Pickles went so well together, or who we would like to take on a trip to Timbuktu and why.

In recent years, the number of tiebreaker competitions has dwindled dramatically and we never come home from the supermarket clutching a handful of entry forms for tiebreaker comps any more, but they ARE still around if you know where to find them, and are springing up in some new and interesting places such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs.

People who have only ever comped on the internet may be new to tiebreakers and find them a bit off-putting, so here are some tips to help you to write entries that stand out from the crowd.

First of all, get a big sheet of paper (or nowadays, a blank computer screen) and jot down every word or phrase that comes to mind to do with the product or service you are writing about. Now use these ideas to gather your ideas together into a winning tiebreaker.

1. Write in rhyme (but not every time)

A rhyming couplet can catch the eye of the judge and help you to win – but only if it is a GOOD rhyming couplet! If you’ve struggled to find words that rhyme, or your lines don’t have a good rhythm when they are read out loud, your tiebreaker won’t have as much punch.

2. Use word play

Puns and jokes – the cornier the better – all help. Think about the headlines in tabloid newspapers. Don’t they sometimes make you want to groan out loud? I’m just looking at the website of a daily paper as I write this, and can see that a TV show presenter has been snapped in a bikini- the photo is headed “Striply Come Dancing”. No need for long words or clever language – just simple words used with a twist are the most effective.

Double meanings, alliteration, homophones (words that sound the same such as pair/pear/pare) can all be used in word play. You could, also take well known sayings, proverbs, film and song titles and juggle with the words a little, for instance using the phrase “To boldly grow…” in a garden related competition.

3. Don’t knock the opposition

I’m sure the promoter thinks all the other brands of cat food, ice cream, perfume or pizza are absolute rubbish, but if you say it in your entry it can look negative and downbeat – and you want to be just the opposite, happy, positive and upbeat. Praise the good – ignore the bad.

4. Simplicity sells

You may have jotted down six brilliant ideas, but try to pare it down to just one or two, otherwise your entry will look scrappy and confused. If your ideas are so good that it hurts not to use them, keep them in a notebook to use another time, or if you are allowed more than one entry, spread them out over several attempts.

There is far, far more that I could say but the best way of all to learn to write tiebreakers is to have a go at them, so here are a few you could try.

On Twitter – you could win an iPad for writing the fictional CV of a celebrity. Enter here as often as you like – this closes on 01 Sep.

On Facebook - there is a free pizza to be on every day

and on the Tracklements website there are delicious sauces and chutneys and lovely kitchen accessories to be won every month

Check out the Superlucky blog (see the link on the right) for more about tackling tiebreakers on Twitter .

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