Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


You, the public, call the shots in the People's Choice awards. Photo by Stuart Guest-Smith on Unsplash.

Members of the public can praise a paragon of clarity or put forward a perplexing paper in the People’s Choice category of the Plain English Awards.

You can enter documents and websites for two awards:

  • Best Plain English Communication — for the most outstanding example of a plain English document or webpage nominated by a member of the public
  • Worst Brainstrain Communication — for a publicly available or widely used document or website that causes problems for many people.

How a Brainstrain award can help

The Brainstrain typically gets a lot of publicity. But even the winners of this category can turn the event into something positive. By shining a spotlight on entries in this category, Award organisers hope the entries will be rewritten in beautifully plain English.

Winners are welcome to blow their own trumpet

The winners of the Best Plain English Communication can share news of their win. They receive a logo to display on the winning publication and their email footer. They’ll also often have people blowing their trumpet for them — take a look at what had to say about last year’s winner, the Wellington City Council.

Entries come from everywhere

People nominate documents from likely and unlikely places.

The Wellington City Council’s newsletter Our Wellington Tō Tātou Pōneke won the ‘Best’ award in 2017. Judges said vibrant design and friendly language made the document appealing. ‘Successfully combines drier council initiatives with more exciting information on events.’

In 2016, a paper from researchers NZIER with the forbidding title ISDS and Sovereignty won. It succinctly explained a key point of contention in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It was ‘a breath of fresh air to readers used to struggling through lengthy, jargon-filled advisory documents’, said the judges.

KiwiSaver documents have won both the ‘Best’ and ‘Brainstrain’ awards.

How you can enter

You have until 3 September to enter a website or document. You need to submit an electronic copy of the entry — so if you’re entering a printed document, you’ll need to scan it.

Entries must:

  • be whole documents or webpages, not extracts
  • be in current use for business purposes
  • be owned by an organisation that operates in New Zealand
  • not be owned by the organisation you work for
  • not be a book, or an extract from a book.

Your identity will not be revealed to the organisations you nominate, or to the judges.

Enter the People’s Choice — Best Plain English Communication

Enter the People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain Communication

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Last year's Plain English Champion — Best Organisation winners Hannah Morgan-Stone, left, William Meldrum, second from right, and Jerome Chapman, from Utilities Disputes, with Write CEO Lynda Harris. Photo by A Beautiful Photo.

We’re grateful this year to once again have the support of TechCommNZ, who’s sponsoring our Best Plain English Technical Communicator category. As part of their sponsorship, TechCommNZ recently published an article we wrote for them about our Trophy Tips Seminar. With their blessing, here’s that same article for your reading pleasure.

Winning an award is the best way to have your work recognised — or your team’s. And for business or technical writers, or people working in communications, the annual Plain English Awards are as good as it gets.

Tips for success from those in the know

In the build-up to the opening of this year’s Plain English Awards, we held a Trophy Tips Seminar in Wellington last month. We also broadcast this seminar through Facebook Live.

Before the seminar, we surveyed former winners and judges of the Awards to gather some tips for aspiring winners. While responses varied slightly, their main messages were clear and simple.

Best advice for aspiring winners

In short, the people we surveyed said that winning entries demonstrated similar traits.

  • Short sentences
  • Crystal-clear headings
  • Readers’ needs prioritised

Common mistakes to avoid

To ensure your entry gets through the first phase of judging, survey respondents recommended that entrants avoid some common pitfalls.

  • Unclear headings
  • Long-windedness
  • Excessive wordiness
  • Poorly organised content

For more tips on how to submit a winning entry in the 2018 Plain English Awards, view our Trophy Tips Seminar.

Get in touch if you have any questions

You’re welcome to ask questions at any time: We’re here to help! See more about the Awards on our website.

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Plain English Awards, Trophy Tips Seminar

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