I've said it before, but it's worth repeating -- read the instructions, and then reread them some time later.
When I first read the instructions while doing this Spring's law review write-on competition, I saw that they told me to include no more than 80 characters on each line. I can do that, I thought; I carefully adjusted my margins, and thought I was set. (The instructions also told me to use a nonproportionately spaced font, so this fixed character limit was easy enough.)
A few days later, I followed the advice I gave in my book (the point of the exercise, after all, was to test and improve on the advice that I've been giving) -- and saw that the instructions said no more than 70 characters on each line. Whoops! Fortunately, I caught the problem in time, and had plenty of time to trim my paper by 12.5%. (It turns out that one can almost always find enough flab in a first draft to cut that much, and even more.) But I shudder to think of how embarrassed I'd have been if I hadn't caught it in time -- or if I had erred in reading the instructions 16 years ago, on my real write-on, when the error would have cost me an important credential for my future legal career.
Now I'm generally a pretty careful and attentive fellow when it comes to things like this. I know how to read. I know my 7s from my 8s. I don't even have the excuse of having been under the influence of the pressure that ordinary first-year students feel when they're doing the law review write-on. Yet I still made a dumb mistake -- which just shows how easy dumb mistakes like this are to make.
So protect yourself from these mistakes: Make sure that you reread the instructions a few days after you first read them, so that your mind is fresh enough to pay attention to them, but so that there's still time to correct your paper if you find that you misread the instructions at first.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Something My Law Review Write-On Exercise Reminded Me About:
- Write-On Competitions and the Bluebooking/Cite-Checking/Editing Test:
- What I Learned This Spring Vacation -- Doing Things More Than Once:
- What I Did This Spring Vacation: