We’re excited to announce that entries are open! | Photo by James Lee on Unsplash
The Awards are officially open for entries in all categories. After a break in 2020, the Awards are back for 2021 — and they’re better than ever! We all saw the amazing benefits of clear and plain communications from the Government and health agencies. This heightened awareness of clear communication has set the scene beautifully for the return of the Plain English Awards.
Here’s what you need to know about the Awards in 2021. We’ve got a new unifying theme for the Awards, a combination of new and familiar judges, and all your favourite categories.
Tell the story of your plain language project
This year we’ve introduced a Story theme — and we’re offering you the chance to share your plain language stories through our video gallery. We’re particularly looking for people in workplaces to share stories about the benefits of their plain language projects. No project is too big or too small!
These stories will inspire others to embrace the benefits of plain language for organisations and their customers. We hope the gallery will become a go-to resource for people to get plain language inspiration.
Our judges and sponsors are joining in the fun as well. You can share a video without needing to enter the Awards. But we hope you’ll feel inspired to enter once you read about the available categories.
Check out the first videos in the gallery
Meet our judging panel
From Dunedin to Denver, Gisborne to Edinburgh, this year’s judging panel is made up of plain language experts from around New Zealand and the world. You’ve met some of them before and others are joining us for the first time in 2021. Together they make up an experienced and insightful team of plain language pros!
Find out more about this year’s judges
Choose your Awards category and get your entry ready
The Awards have a range of categories to suit almost every type of document (and websites).
If you’re starting off or pressed for time, you might consider entering the short and sweet Best Plain English Sentence Transformation. If you’ve transformed a whole document, you might be ready for the Best Plain English Turnaround. You can enter a Best Plain English Document or Website — with a choice of public or private sector.
For specialist business documents, you’ll find a Best Plain English Legal Document category and Best Plain English Annual Report. We’re seeing some of the finest examples of these documents coming through, with the quality of entries rising every year.
Specialist technical communicators have a category just for them. And those working on a team project or an organisation-wide project can enter the Champion categories.
Discover whether you’re a contender for the Champion category
Get some inspiration for the Sentence Transformation category
Review all the categories and find out how to enter
Nominate a best or worst communication
The Awards also include two categories that any member of the public can nominate communications for, to be judged by our People’s Choice judging panel. These are the People’s Choice Best Plain English Communication and the Worst Brainstrain Communication categories. These categories are always lots of fun — we love giving a voice to all of New Zealand.
Read about the People’s Choice in 2019
Get involved in the 2021 People’s Choice awards
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, People's Choice awards, Plain English Awards
Best Plain English Communication, clear communication, clear writing, judges, People's Choice, People's Choice Awards, plain English, Plain English Awards, Worst Brainstrain
The very hungry caterpillar, by Eric Carle | Photo by eric-carl.com
I don’t know about you, but I first learnt how to write professionally in an academic setting — the more information you can feed into someone’s brain, the better the result. While we might love to gorge ourselves on a treasure trove of knowledge, too much information can wear us out. Our brains have to work even harder to digest what’s in front of us, and sometimes all the ‘smart’ words don’t even make sense.
The Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation is one of my favourite categories in the Plain Language Awards. You get to see great before-and-after examples of unplain, jargon-heavy text transformed into beautifully clear sentences. But an added bonus for entrants is being validated in having permission to write using plain language.
Trim the fat, keep the flavour
The easiest way to think about the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation category is through the lens of a classic childhood read. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (rest in peace) is a children’s picture-book that tells the story of a caterpillar who becomes a butterfly.
The caterpillar hatches from its egg, and begins to eat more and more each day. At one point, it has a ridiculous feast and becomes ill from overeating. Having learnt its lesson, the following week it takes on a lean diet with a large green leaf, before spinning a cocoon to chill out and emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The caterpillar represents all the words we want to write. We’ve hatched an idea and we want to spread our message. But we’ve got so many thoughts and ideas to add that we sometimes lose our direction. Our sentences become bloated and it’s exhausting to even look at our writing. What we’re left with is the Sunday evening special — what any food critic would describe as a hot mess.
And on another level, the caterpillar represents your audience — who you’re writing for. And the food it eats is all the words that you’re throwing at it. You wouldn’t take your vegetarian mates out to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue now, would you?
Five easy tricks for a word diet — thesauruses hate them!
So what’s the recipe for a great sentence? Here are five easy tricks to cook up a beautiful serving of alphabet soup.
- Keep sentences to an average of 15–20 words for print, or 12–15 words for online text.
- Use the active voice, rather than the passive voice.
- Ask a mate to read what you’ve written and see if it makes sense to them — bonus points if they’re your target audience.
- Be consistent in how you describe technical, complex terms.
- Write like a human and not like a robot.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And for me, a crisp and clear sentence is the apple of my eye — a work of art that I appreciate more than anything else. So bring out the red pen, bin the jargon, and show the world all the beautiful butterflies you’ve created.
Enter the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation category
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Best Plain English Sentence, Plain English Awards
2021 Plain English Awards, Best Plain English Sentence, Best Sentence, plain English, Plain English Awards, transformation
James Elliott asks and answers a common question | Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
As our Awards MC James Elliott recently pointed out in an article on Newsroom, sometimes it’s easier to work out what something is by first working out what it is not.
In the case of plain language, it’s not the passages of writing that leave you scratching your head. Rather, it’s those passages that pass you by unnoticed that are at the heart of plain language.
‘The best example of plain English is a grouping of words that almost passes us by unnoticed because it doesn’t require a second thought or consideration. We understood what it meant the first time around.’
Read James Elliott’s article in praise of plain English
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Plain English Awards
clear communication, MC James Elliott, Newsroom, plain English, power of plain English, sponsors
We celebrate the generous support of our friends | Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash
One of the goals behind the Awards is to create a fairer society through improving people’s access to important communications. We acknowledge that this is an ambitious goal, but it’s one that moves a step closer to reality with every bit of support we get.
Among our supporters are our judges, who are all expert plain language specialists from around the world. They seem to come back each year even keener to to help us out again!
Adding to this wonderful level of support, our sponsors are all shining examples from the community of individuals and organisations committed to doing good.
Taking care of our printing needs
For 7 years now, the Wellington branch of printing.com has been one of our loyal sponsors. We feel fortunate to have their support. As their commitment to the Awards, printing.com covers all our printing needs for the Plain English Awards.
‘We see the Awards as being extremely important for supporting the government and business sectors as they continuously improve the way they communicate with the general public of New Zealand,’ says Nathan Jennings, business development manager at printing.com.
Thank you printing.com for your ongoing support. We couldn’t do it without you and all our other friends!
Read about printing.com and our other sponsors
Become a sponsor
Posted In: Communications, Judges, Sponsors, Sponsorship
2021 Plain English Awards, Industry awards, judges, Social good, sponsors, Sponsorship
The Champion Best Organisation leads the way for clear communication | Photo by Joshua Golde on Unsplash
We asked Lynda Harris, Awards founder and CE of our principal sponsor Write, why she’s so excited about the Champion categories in the Plain English Awards.
First of all, what do we mean when we talk about an organisation being a plain language champion?
The Plain English Champion category is my absolute favourite! The title implies two strong, equally important concepts connected with the word ‘champion’. Most obviously it means being ‘the winner’ — the best, the highest achiever, the standard-setter, the model for others to follow. And we applaud that!
But also embodied in the title of this category is the concept of being an advocate — being a champion for a cause. Plain language champions believe in the power of clarity and are proud to share their ideals with the world.
What are some of the characteristics that set a champion organisation apart?
An organisation that wins the Plain English Champion category has some stand-out features that truly do set it apart. A champion organisation has shown evidence of a deliberate, focused, consistent choice across the whole organisation to use plain language. This means they make their expectations clear from the top.
The chief executive and senior leaders of a champion organisation talk about the ‘why’ of plain language. They and their management teams encourage and support others to adopt a clear style of communicating throughout the organisation. They promote the connection between clarity and their organisation’s values. (How often have you seen a company say they’re customer-focused, and then tried to work your way through a difficult form or a jumbled website?)
Champion organisations celebrate the benefits of clear communication — things like greater job satisfaction and improved workplace culture, or better customer retention and a stronger reputation for their business.
What do you think the judges will be looking for in the winning portfolio?
Evidence is key to a winning portfolio! The judges will be looking for evidence of a wholehearted commitment to making plain language the norm across the whole organisation. That sounds easy but means a lot.
In a plain language organisation, you’ll find evidence that the CEO and senior team have drawn a line in the sand and set a strong expectation that:
- the reader rules! Everyone considers their reader in every communication, both internal and external
- staff learn what good looks like — everyone writes to an agreed plain language standard
- senior people show the way — the CEO and all managers set an example and model plain language
- staff have help — they can easily find helpful resources and champions who can help
- new documents are clear and reader-friendly
- feedback and measurable results support the change to plain language.
What this evidence all adds up to is that plain language is woven into the fabric of the organisation.
Why does Write sponsor this category?
You can see that everything about this category is dear to Write’s heart. Our mission is to help organisations and individuals get more value from their daily investment in business communication. When we fulfil our mission, we help build a fairer, more respectful society.
We see the Plain English Awards as another way we can promote the benefits of clear communication. And the Champion category is the one that allows us to celebrate other organisations that are on a similar path to us.
Read about the purpose of the Plain English Awards
Preparing your Champion entry
Read about the criteria and prizes for the Champion categories
Read about other clues that your organisation is a champion of clear communication
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Judges, Plain English Champion
Champion, clear communication, leadership, plain language culture, recognition
Media release: 7 May 2021
After holding off entries last year, the full Plain English Awards are back in 2021. The Awards will look a little different this year, with a virtual ceremony and some new ways for entrants to share their inspiring work in clear communication.
Fresh Awards with a new theme
This year’s theme for the Awards is Story. We’re inviting the public to share the stories behind their plain language projects in short videos. We’ll showcase these videos in a gallery to inspire and enlighten the wider public. The video gallery is open now.
‘A major goal for the Awards has always been to bring plain language into common use,’ says chair of the WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust, Gregory Fortuin. ‘We know that stories raise awareness and inspire action. The more visible the stories of our entrants, the more sparks of possibility and innovation will be lit.’
All the familiar categories are back
This year’s Awards will feature all categories, including the two People’s Choice categories for Best Communication and the infamous Brainstrain.
‘As we’ve seen in the events of 2020 and beyond, clear communication makes a real difference in people’s lives,’ Gregory says. ‘Here’s a chance to celebrate all the great work that people having been doing over the past couple of years.’
Important dates for the 2021 Awards
- 1 June: Entries open
- 31 July: Entries close
- 30 September: Finalists announced
- 14 October: Winners announced
Big thanks to our media partner, Newsroom
The goodwill and support of our sponsorship partners keeps the Plain English Awards ticking. We’re immensely grateful to New Zealand-based news and current affairs site, Newsroom.co.nz for believing in our cause and being our media partner.
Get more information
Jonathan Tan, project manager, 2021 Plain English Awards | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gregory Fortuin, Chair, WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust | 021 465 254
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Media release, Plain English Awards, Story theme
2021 Plain English Awards, Best communication, Best Plain English Communication, Brainstrain, clear communication, People's Choice, plain English, Plain English Awards, plain language, recognition, writing for the public
Are you the Champion we're looking for? Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash
Are you one of our award-winning plain language Champions? After a break of almost 3 years, our premier Champion categories are back: Best Organisation and Best Individual or Team. The Award for Best Organisation is highly sought-after and you’ll join an elite band of past winners.
We know for sure that the judging team is looking forward to hearing about your plain language project. But how do you know whether the time is right to enter the Best Organisation category?
Here are five clues to help you decide if it’s your organisation’s time to shine. If any one of them is true, we recommend you enter!
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 your organisation. You may even have gone the extra mile by working towards an external mark of quality like the WriteMark or WriteMark Plus.
Your internal documents, such as brand guidelines, policies, and newsletters, are written in plain language. Role descriptions emphasise the need to write clearly. Perhaps you even have formal KPIs for using plain language.
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
Your customers value the way you communicate. Getting praise from customers for using plain language is praise indeed! People don’t offer praise lightly. They’re much 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 — and to tell the world about it!
4. You train your people in better business writing
Organisations that commit to a plain language culture offer their people resources and training. Writing in plain language 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. Your peer review process uses a checklist or standard and is part of a defined process to achieve quality.
Reviewing and feedback can take place through user-testing too. Do you regularly seek feedback from real readers on your communications?
Good systems and processes are key to a Champion mindset. Enter the Awards and get some well-deserved external recognition for your work.
Preparing your Champion entry
Find out how to enter our Champion categories
Read the criteria for our Champion categories
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Industry awards, Plain English Awards, Plain English Champion
2021 Plain English Awards, Best Organisation, Champion, clear communication, clear writing, Industry awards, Plain English Awards, Plain English Champion