We wondered if there was a science behind writing award winning stories, and apparently you do need to know your 123s as much as your ABCs.

It can’t just get better than this, no way. These awards are the writing equivalent of the Oscars. To be precise, the National Magazine Awards is a series of American awards that honor various excellences in the magazine industry. These awards have been presented to some of the best writers in the industry on an annual basis since 1966.

As one of the most elite awards in the magazine industry, you may be wondering what it takes to be crowned the winner in any of these prestigious award categories. Worry not, that’s what this article is all about. That said, the nominees for 2016 awards were announced last week. In the Feature Writing category, there are eight nominees, but which of these amazing features will prevail? That will definitely be upon the judges to choose.

Nonetheless, these are some definitive considerations or factors that winners of the Feature Writing in the past 25 years have included in their stories to bag the prestigious accolade.

No Fewer than 6,500 words

In the past 25 years, many winning features have been around 10,000 words. It does not mean that an article with shorter or longer than 10,000 words cannot win, but it’s rare.

Ignore Stylized Present Tense

Even though 17 of the past 25 winner have used present tense, it looks like this common style of writing is going out of style as far as uniqueness is concerned. This appears to be a concrete point given that the winners of this accolade from 2008 to 2015 have all written in the past tense, except two winners. It would be wise to try something new such as future tense.

Try to Avoid Writing in the Second Person

Twelve of the past 25 winners used third person voice while five used second person voice. Six of the remaining used first person voice with the remaining two using the weird hybrid voice. It is therefore safe to use the conventional third person voice.

Avoid Magazine Clichés

Clichés are often mocked by writers, even though it’s not bad to use them. Nevertheless, only nine of the past 25 winners extensively used the infamous nut graphs. It’s not illegal to use them, but it’s safe to go easy on them.

Minimize Swearing

Of the past 25 winners, only one winner used swearing words more than 40 times. Thirteen of the winners never felt the need of using the words, while the remaining 11 used them sparingly.

Avoid Publishing in January, March or September

Although this is more of a mythology, no winning article has been published in these three months. This year, one was published in June, one in July, one in October, one in November, two in December, and one in the unlucky month of March. Which one will win? Let’s wait.