Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


You now have 3 whole days more to submit your entries!

Entries for the 2018 Plain English Awards now close at midnight next Monday, 3 September. That means you’ve got 3 extra days to create your winning entry!

Read about our categories

See who won at last year’s Awards

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Industry awards, People's Choice awards, Winners

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Taking a fresh approach to legal writing with the Best Plain English Legal Document

Legal documents are changing. Once densely written, peppered with Latin, and strictly formatted, today’s legal documents are much more reader-friendly.

We’re all readers of legal documents. And we all appreciate clearly written documents that state the necessary information without resorting to legalese. Preferably, we want to be able to read the document and understand it easily.  This means we can discuss the content with our legal advisor or a colleague, without having to rely on someone else to explain it first.

A fresh approach to legal

When we’re signing a contract, entering an agreement, or deciding who we’ll leave our worldly goods to, legal documents in plain English make each party’s obligations clear.

The Best Plain English Legal Document award recognises this fresh approach to legal documents. The judges will be looking for examples of legal writing that consider the reader’s needs rather than the writer’s. These are the documents that clearly and succinctly explain, streamline, and structure legal content that could otherwise be confusing to a non-legally-trained person.

Here’s what the judges praised in last year’s winner and finalist entries.

About the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017 (Parliamentary Counsel Office)

Parliamentary Counsel Office did a great job of combining multiple Acts that were a confusing hodgepodge of legislation into a single intelligible Act.

A clear understanding of the audience and consultation with these groups made the project stronger. The explanations in the legislation were particularly useful.

The revised Act is a great step forward in New Zealand for plain English legislation. And the intended audience has a much clearer picture of contractual law in New Zealand.

About the Property Sharing Agreement (Cavell Leitch)

Cavell Leitch has shown a commitment to improving the clarity of a consumer-focused contract. Significant steps have been taken to improve the language.

The judges are looking forward to seeing what this year’s entries will bring.

Enter your fresh legal document here

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Legal writing

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Put your compelling annual report into the limelight

Have you joined the wave of change? Does your annual report tick off all the statutory stipulations and hum with life? Does it tell a compelling story of what matters to you and your stakeholders? Is it clear and concise?

If you’re twitching with pride right now, jump up and give your report the razzle dazzle it deserves.

Enter this year’s Plain English Awards and your report can leap into the limelight and take a bow. Entries close at midnight on Monday, 3 September 2018.

Fabulous feedback is waiting in the wings

Imagine you and your report basking in this kind of feedback. Here’s what the judges had to say about last year’s winners:

Overall, this is a great example of how you can appease regulatory requirements and appeal to a general reader — a true plain English experience with the audience in mind. Well done!

Great use of visual storytelling and pared-down messaging. The colours are vibrant and engaging.

This report has very little jargon, which is always great to see. The vocabulary is straightforward and clear.

More than just compliance

Gone are the days of an impenetrable collection of numbers and words, prepared for compliance purposes. Shareholders and stakeholders have switched their attention to companies with timely and relevant information shared in a compelling way.

Is this you? If it is, enter this year’s awards today — you need the fabulous feedback, and the world needs excellent examples.

Here’s what winners Z Energy said last year:

We knew making the report highly readable would help readers connect with what Z has achieved and its vision for the future.

A winning report is clear, easy to read, timely, and relevant

Judges will focus on the body of the report and will be checking that:

  • all readers (not just the financial wizards) will find it easy to read and use
  • readers can use the report to make useful decisions and comparisons.

What makes a clear annual report?

If your report has these elements, the judges will give it the thumbs up.

  • Main messages that are clear and obvious
  • Clear, concise and jargon free
  • Technical terms explained
  • Figures presented in an easy-to-understand format
  • Graphs, tables and photos that support main messages.

Enter your report for the 2018 Plain English Awards.

Meet last year’s winners


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It only takes a sentence to enter the Awards! Get transforming, using these simple steps. | Photo by Julie North on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter an awards competition? The award for Best Plain English Sentence Transformation makes entering the Plain English Awards as simple as 1 – 2 – 3!

1. First, catch your sentence

Complex, long-winded sentences abound in official publications, on business websites, and around the office.

To find a suitable sentence, first of all, track down something that’s really long with multiple clauses, that maybe even includes more than one main idea, and also uses unnecessary, surplus words and phrases and convoluted language, which nevertheless might be regarded by some as adding a certain element of essential formality. See what we did there?

2. Rewrite your sentence in plain English

Rewrite your sentence in plain English so that it becomes simple and beautifully crafted. Keep your sentence short. If needed, you can use more than one sentence to express the ideas of your original text.

3. Enter your sentence in the award for Best Plain English Sentence Transformation

Enter your original and rewrite in the category that gives well-written sentences the attention they deserve. You can enter up to three sentence transformations in one entry. And feel free to enter more than once!

Enter the Best Plain English Sentence Transformation award

Meet a previous Best Sentence winner

Meet a Best Sentence finalist

Meet another Best Sentence finalist

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So often we hear stories about the people behind a plain English initiative in an organisation. To make sure these people get their own time to shine, we’ve got a Champion award — for the Best Individual or Team.

These sometimes unsung heroes are those who’ve worked hard to make plain English a reality in their organisation.

Are you a plain English hero in your organisation? Here are a few signs that you need to enter for Best Individual or Team — of course, we know you’ll be able to think of many more!

You’ve talked to your leaders about the need for a plain English project

You’re the one who went to the management or board meeting and talked about all the good reasons for starting a plain English project (large or small).

Or maybe your team got the project started, and took proof of the benefits to management to advocate for wider adoption of plain English throughout the organisation.

If you’re a plain English leader, we recommend you enter and get industry-wide recognition.

You’ve trained your colleagues in plain English

Not content to be the only plain English writer in your team or business, you’ve created a programme of training. You’re spreading the word about the advantages of plain English and giving your colleagues tools and techniques to help them write more clearly.

Perhaps you make sure you include a slot at team meetings on plain English tips — and that slot has become the highlight of the meetings.

Or are you the go-to person or team that is consulted before a major report goes out or content is loaded on the website?

If you’ve become indispensable as guide or mentor for people who want to write clearly, it’s time to get that entry in.

You’ve produced resources to support clear writing

You’ve compiled all you know into a resource for your organisation — a writing how-to, or brand guidance on clear writing. You’ve created intranet resources and newsletter articles to help build a culture of clear communication.

Or perhaps you decided those terrible templates had to go. You’ve restructured, rewritten, and rebuilt templates to make standard communications easier to produce — and easier for the target audience to receive and understand.

Sometimes this background work needs to be brought to the fore — enter the Champion category and let your light shine!

Read about last year’s winner

Find out if your organisation is a contender for the Best Organisation category

Enter the Awards

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Ever had that 'feel good' feeling from transforming a piece of text into really clear, readable content?

It’s 10am on a workday morning and a bunch of us are, accidentally and animatedly, tweaking some text on a neglected webpage we administer. ‘Too long!’ ‘It’s so long-winded.’ ‘Uggh, it sounds stodgy and dull’. ‘Look at that next sentence – why, just why?’

We’d intended to check on only a small detail but quickly ended up editing with a passion. Honestly, we didn’t mean to! But, oh, the satisfaction at the glorious transformation. It felt good. Very, very good! The world was now a better place. Instructions were clear. Readers would breeze through it. Job done!

If you too get a happy burst of dopamine from turning around bad writing, you’ll totally get this and probably be nodding in agreement. And if you’ve been on top of the world after some of your own transformations, you’d better share! Enter them in the Turnaround category of the annual Plain English Awards

We’ll be cheering you on, every step of the way!

The Turnaround award recognises the best plain English rewrite of a document or website that was originally difficult to read.

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Does your organisation's writing rise above the rest? Image by Andreas Weiland. Unsplash licence.

Have you got what it takes to be a Plain English Champion? This year we have two Champion categories: the Best Organisation and the Best Individual or Team.

Here are five clues to help you decide if it’s your organisation’s time to shine. We’re sure you can think of many more!

1. Your organisation champions and celebrates clear communication

Clear communication is something your organisation values and rewards. Your leadership team walks the talk, promoting the benefits of clear communication throughout the organisation.

Internal documents, such as brand guidelines, policies, and newsletters, are written in plain English. Role descriptions emphasise the need to write clearly. Perhaps you even have formal KPIs for using plain English.

Let your industry peers know you’re a leader by entering the Champion category.

2. You’ve noticed better business results from clearer communication

You’ve got case studies or numbers that show improvement. Achieving a measurable return on your investment in business writing is evidence of Champion performance. You recognise writing is more than an everyday activity in business — it can be a way to improve business success.

If you’ve cracked it, you deserve a medal!

3. You’ve had great feedback from customers about your communication style

Getting praise from customers for using plain English is praise indeed! People don’t offer praise lightly. They’re more likely to complain about poor communication — or to say nothing at all.

Great feedback for your communication style shows you’re getting your message across in a way your customers appreciate.

We’d like to hear what brought about that success.

4. You train your staff in better business writing

Organisations that commit to a plain English culture offer their people resources and training. Writing in plain English takes skill and effort.

You train your staff to write clearly, which gives them a step up. They enjoy their writing more, and they write more efficiently.

Good on you for giving your people the tools they need to write well. That’s worth celebrating too!

5. Your organisation encourages peer review of print and online content

Peer review at key stages of a writing project is expected. People in your organisation seek out peer review as they can see the value in another person’s critique. Peer review uses a checklist or standard and is part of a defined process to achieve quality.

Good systems and processes are key to a Champion mindset. Enter the Awards and get some external recognition for your work.

Read about the entry requirements

Read about last year’s Champion organisation

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Trophies are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of entering industry awards. Photo by Photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen on Unsplash

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think about industry awards? For many people the answer might be trophies and photos in the newspaper, but those overt benefits are often just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The benefits of entering an industry award, and perhaps winning, go much deeper than you might first think. Public recognition is one of the most rewarding benefits, of course. But that benefit is often one of many.

Setting standards and demonstrating value

We’ve been running the Plain English Awards for 13 years. Over this time we’ve seen a steady increase in the quality of the entries. We’ve also seen a steady increase in interest in the Awards. And we’ve witnessed and recorded the benefits that organisations and individuals, as well as sponsors, reap from association with the Awards.

What are these benefits?

  • Optimal benchmarking: the recipient of an award is seen as setting a standard
  • Building credibility and strength: awards validate an organisation’s position with prospective customers and clients
  • Demonstrating value: winning an award provides clear evidence of the value an organisation brings to its clients
  • Communicating that you’re professional: winning an award shows that you’re a reputable professional whose achievements stand out

A long-term commitment to quality

What about those individuals and organisations that win more than once? This kind of achievement reinforces all the points above, and shows that you’ve committed to quality for the long term. What more could a client or customer wish for?

Read about how one organisation won our Best Organisation award in 2007 — and won again 8 years later in 2015.

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