Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for some help? You've come to the right place.

Help For Kids

I am having problems submitting my story?

Often pages not loading or not being able to get to the next page of registration can be caused by a browser/device/internet issue.

We recommend that you try the below:

  • Log in using a different browser to your default browser
  • Try resetting your cache/cookies - it could be that your browser is trying to load an old page/password.
  • Try a different device.
  • It could also be that there is a security/firewall setting that is preventing you from accessing the page — Are you able to try a different internet connection?
  • If you need to reset your password you can request this here

If you haven't received your activation email

There can be a slight delay but generally activation emails are being sent out within a few minutes. Please try to avoid requesting new activation emails as once you request a new one all old links become invalid and it can get confusing if there is a delay in delivery.

Some email providers can sometimes delay the delivery of email from their end. It might be worth trying another email address if you have one as we have no control over what happens to the email after we have sent it successfully.

We also recommend adding to your safe senders list to help prevent competition correspondence from getting caught in spam filters. Your email provider or security service will be able to provide details on how to do this.

You can request a new activation email here and hopefully this will allow you access to your account.

If you are still having problems email with as much information as to what the problem is - include any error message or screenshots. We are a very small team and it can take up to 24 hours for us to reply.

What is 500 Words and how do I enter?

500 Words is the world’s largest story-writing competition for kids

You need to be between 5 and 13 years old and a full time resident of the UK.

To enter you need to write an original story that is no more than 500 words long.

Once you've written your story, you can enter it into the competition using the entry form on this website.

When is the competition open?

The competition will open at 6.30am on Monday 29th June and close Friday 3rd July at 11.59pm 2020

How are the stories marked?

All entries submitted will be read by the public judges made up of teachers and librarians from across the UK. After marking by the public judges, the highest scoring 2,500 entries will be professionally read by The Reading Agency who shall suggest the top 16 entries on the point marking system to the Judging Panel. The judging panel will then select the top 8 stories which shall be read from 13th to 16th July on Virgin Radio. The Judges in their sole choice will then select the two finalists and these will be read on Virgin Radio on Friday 17th July.

Can I submit more than one story?

You can only enter one story - and it has to be all your own work.

If you enter more than one story then we'll only consider the first submission as part of the competition.

Can I write a story in Welsh/Gaelic?

All stories must be submitted in English.

Can people overseas enter?

While we would love to extend the reach of 500 Words, we already are a HUGE competition - we received over 100,000 entries in the last competition. We're a tiny team (of three) working on this, so you can imagine that we currently don't have capacity to do so!

Can a story be submitted without an adult’s approval?

No - we need an adult to approve the entry and agree to these Terms and Conditions (including the use of the story submitted and the fictional nature of the story) on behalf of the entrant, by way of a check-box in the online form.

The adult could be the child’s parent, guardian or teacher.

The adult must provide their own contact details (not the child’s) and the region in which the child lives.

Why do you need personal information?

The personal data provided will be used for the purposes of administering the competition and in accordance with the 500 Words (Children) Ltd’s Privacy and Cookies Policy.

500 Words will use the contact details provided by the adult to send general updates as to the progress of the competition by email.

For further information please see the 500 Words (Children) Ltd’s Privacy and Cookies Policy.

Does the story have to be original?

Your story must be all your own original work - you must not copy someone else's story.

Any entry deemed to be a copy by our judges will be disqualified.

Your story must be an original piece of fiction and not an account of real events – either historical or current.

However, your stories can feature well known public figures from today or from history (e.g. Wayne Rooney or Rosa Parks), take place in historical eras (e.g. the Stone Age) and use real-life experiences as a creative springboard as long as the story is fictional.

Can I write about a character from a book I've read?

Entrants can use fictional or real-life characters, as a creative springboard but we're looking for made up stories, which will be marked for characterisation, as well as originality, plot, language and enjoyment.

Can visually impaired children enter?

We’ve had a great success rate among visually impaired students previously, including a finalist! Should your student win, we will make sure that the prize is appropriate.

Is there a minimum word limit?

Stories can be 500 Words or under. There is no lower limit.

Is the title included in the word limit?

The title will not be included in your word count.

Can an adult correct the spelling of a child's story?

You may correct spelling where the meaning of the word might otherwise be misconstrued. However, we ask that none of the words used are changed. Grammar also has to stay the same.

Stories are marked on their creative use of language, not on correct spelling.

May I scribe for my child?

You may scribe for your child, as long as none of the words used are changed.

Stories are marked on their creative use of language, not on correct spelling.

Will I be penalised if I write a story including violence?

We accept that stories of a dark or troubling nature will be submitted to us and while we don’t have any hard and fast rules regarding depictions of violence, we recommend that graphic depictions of extreme violence may be marked down.

What are the criteria for judging the stories?

Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Originality
  • Plot
  • Characterisation
  • Language
  • Enjoyment
How did we come about 5-9 and 10-13 as our age categories?

When the age categories were decided a variety of organisations were consulted all of whom have extensive experience of competition for children's reading and writing - and all of whom agreed our age categories were appropriate to our aim of promoting literacy in the UK.

In an ideal world with limitless funds, we would run an enormous 500 Words competition with lots of age categories that everyone could enter with a good chance of winning. But sadly this is not possible, so we have selected two age categories that we feel can be reasonably compared to each other.

Is the competition appropriate for children with special needs or learning disabilities?

Right from day one, Chris Evans' vision for 500 Words was to get children excited about reading and writing. All children, no matter what their ability, have a unique voice and an organic way of looking at the world around them and this is exactly what we want to hear.

When the age categories were decided a variety of organisations were consulted all of whom have extensive experience of competition for children's reading and writing - and all of whom agreed our age categories were appropriate to our aim of promoting literacy in the UK.

The emphasis of 500 Words - which we communicate to absolutely all of our judges at every stage - is on originality and creativity. This, combined with the competition's anonymous marking system, is why we believe that children with special educational needs can still be selected to progress.

Does my story have to be written in prose?

All submissions will be judged on the same marking criteria. Your story can take any form - be that a poem, play, dialogue etc - but it will be marked on plot, enjoyment, originality, language and characterisation like any other story, and not receive any special consideration because of its structure.

I made a mistake on my story submission form - what can I do?

You will not be able to change any details or edit your story after it has been successfully submitted to us.

I didn't save a copy of my story - can you please send me a copy?

We’re sorry but we are unable to retrieve stories once they have been sent to the judges. This happens automatically upon submission.

I've sent in my story - when will I hear back?

Once your story has been submitted you will receive an automated email receipt.

You will be notified if you have or have not been long listed from our first round of marking. Sometimes emails go astray, so please do check your junk mail folder. If you think you are missing an update, we'll endeavour to get one to you as soon as possible.

The parents or guardians of the top 16 successful entrants will be contacted by a member of the production team.

Those who have not been shortlisted will also be notified.

When is the 500 Words Final?

The 500 Words final will be on Friday 17th July and will be live on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio UK

Can I go to the 500 Words Final?

Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions in the UK as a result of Covid-19 the 500 Words final will be live on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio UK and public attendance will not be permitted.

Help for Judges

Who can apply to be a volunteer judge?

Anyone who is a teacher or librarian (retired, in training or current) and a full time resident of the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) can apply to be a volunteer judge as part of 500 Words.

You will be asked to supply contact details for someone who can validate your application. Retired teachers are advised to put down an old colleague as a referee if possible.

Can teaching assistants or trainee teachers apply?

We're happy to confirm that we welcome volunteer judge applications from teaching assistants and trainee teachers. If you've got the qualifications or experience to assess the written work of children, aged 5-13, then please apply online!

Why can only teachers or librarians apply?

We need our volunteer judges to have the experience of assessing children’s written work, because we’re relying upon them to bring this expertise to the first stage of our competition.

The question we ask is whether they’re able to “assess the written work of children aged 13 and under?" We receive thousands of requests to judge for the competition, and are delighted to receive them. However, we need a point of qualification or comparison by which to say that our judges definitely are eligible to mark our stories; experience in marking children’s work is crucial.

My child or class is entering the competition, can I become a judge?

Parents or teachers of children entering the competition are very much welcome to sign up to be a judge. We use a complex database which assigns stories to judges from a region different to their own, so there shouldn’t be any crossover.

Who can validate my application?

This should be a manager (e.g. Head Teacher, Deputy, or Head of Department) who can vouch for your professional eligibility and confirm they are happy for you to volunteer your time.

If you are retired or on a career break, please use your last boss or someone you deem qualified to vouch for you.

If you are having trouble getting someone to verify you get in touch with the 500 Words administrators at

I was a judge last year - can I help again?

Yes please!

If you have been a previous judge and would like to be a judge again please re-register online.

If you've got any questions please get in touch with the 500 Words administrators at

When does the judging period take place?

Public judging will begin as soon as the competition opens at 6.30am on Monday 29th June and run until 5.00pm on Wednesday 8th July 2020.

After this point, the top 2,500 stories will go to The Reading Agency for judging.

Finally, the top 16 shortlisted stories will then be put to our judging panel of authors to decide semi-finalists and eventually the winner in each age category.

How many stories will a judge be asked to mark?

Volunteer judges will be asked to read a batch of about 20 stories. Each one will be no more than 500 words. You can request more stories if you want to mark more than 20.

As a volunteer judge can I come to the 500 Words final?

Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions in the UK as a result of Covid-19 the 500 Words final will be live on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio UK and public attendance will not be permitted.

Need further help?

If you have a question that we haven't answered above, you can contact the 500 Words team on

Please read the full Terms & Conditions before submitting a story as part of 500 Words.