Fabilli Hoffer Prize offered: ‘What I don’t know,’ in 500 words or less

BERKELEY —

How much can you say in 500 words? That’s the yearly challenge presented by the Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer essay contest, which is accepting entries now.

The competition is open to faculty, staff and students. This year’s topic: “What I don’t know.” 

Entries are judged on originality of thought and excellence in writing; the maximum length is 500 words. Typically, $3,000 in prize money is divided at the discretion of the judge.

Entries must be submitted in person to prize coordinator Jimmy Ausemus (210A Sproul) no later than 4 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2. For more information about the Fabilli Hoffer essay contest, visit the Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize website. The past three winning essays can be read there as well.

The contest was endowed in 1970 by American social writer Eric Hoffer, often referred to as the longshoreman philosopher, He was the author of “The True Believer” (1951) and many other books. Hoffer had strong feelings about many things, including the virtues of brevity. In a 1977 note about the prize that is reproduced on the prize website, he wrote: ”Wordiness is a sickness of American writing. Too many words dilute and blur ideas.” Many of his papers were bequeathed to Lili Fabilli Osborne, a family friend.