Use your superpowers and spread the word about plain language | Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash
Lynda Harris, Write and WriteMark CEO and Awards founder, spoke at the Plain English Awards ceremony on 14 October 2021. Here is her introduction to the premier award of Plain English Champion — Best Organisation. The Champion category is sponsored by Write Limited.
So here we are in the middle of the Champion category with all this suspense before we announce the premier Award! For that reason I have been told to be very brief!
It’s no secret that the Champion category is my favourite. Not only because it honours such wonderful people and projects, but because the concept of being a Champion is absolutely inherent in the whole concept of the Awards.
Even though as a country we are so much better at plain language now, we still need to push for it. And the people who do the pushing, inspiring, and advocating are the champions. When you’re persuading a manager or a senior leader that clarity and connection is worth the time and effort, you’re being a champion. When you’re writing a business case for a plain language makeover, you’re being a champion. If you’re at this ceremony, you’re a champion.
So to all you champions, thank you!
Use your superpowers to make the world a better place
Years ago in 2007 we made a little animated video about a superhero who had P on his cape. That was P for PLAIN. Our PLAIN superhero swooped around workplaces converting people into superheros. Lots of plain language champions, in other words. It was a bit corny to be fair, but I often think that as plain language advocates and champions we are wearing a metaphorical superhero outfit.
I actually asked Google the defining qualities of a superhero and it helpfully told me that they were super strength, flight, telepathy, telekinesis, super speed, super intelligence, and super gadgets.
Well, you can take from that what you will. But the best bit that rings true is that they typically use their powers to help the world become a better place.
You are already using your superpowers to do just that. But maybe you never thought of it that way. Whether you’re a bold visionary, a passionate campaigner, or a quiet doer, you have qualities that the world needs more of. You have stories to tell about people who need clarity and connection. And you have the skills to inspire others to be champions like you.
So please take stock of your superpowers, don that cape, gather others around you, and continue to champion the cause for human-centred writing. Write’s slogan is ‘using the power of words for good’. Together we are all doing just that.
Congratulations to the winners of the Best Organisation Award!
Read about the winners of the Champion Best Organisation Award
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony, 2021 Plain English Awards
2021 Plain English Awards, Best Organisation, Champion, clear communication, power of plain English
Media release: 14 October 2021
Winners in the 2021 annual Plain English Awards were announced at an online ceremony earlier today. More than a hundred people attended the virtual ceremony, including many Awards supporters from outside New Zealand.
Two Champion winners
The award for the Plain English Champion — Best Organisation went to Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand (CAB). Lead judge for the category Matt Huntington said he was particularly impressed by CAB’s understanding of how communicating clearly is key to their effectiveness.
‘And then they take it one extra step to acknowledge the importance of communicating with empathy and respect on top of that!’ Matt says. ‘The fact that they can do this successfully while relying on such a large and diverse group of volunteers is a testament to their grounding in plain language communications.’
Entries for the Awards opened up to Australia for the first time this year. And one of the Australian entries was awarded the Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team. Lauren Kelindeman, from law firm Legalite in Melbourne, was praised by judges for her exemplary work. Legalite was also a finalist in the Plain English Champion — Best Organisation category.
‘Lauren’s commitment to plain English shines bright in the amount of work she’s done and the quality of the advice she’s created,’ says judge Steph Prince.
In praise of clear documents and websites
The award for the Best Plain English Document in the private sector went to Ryman Healthcare for its myRyman Life eLearning tool. Health Navigator NZ took out the public sector award with its leaflet on treating type 2 diabetes, Empagliflozin.
The Best Plain English Website award for the public sector went to the Ministry of Social Development for the website www.youthservice.govt.nz. No entries made it to winner status in the private sector award for this category in 2021.
Rethinking a document or website to improve it
The Best Plain English Turnaround award went to Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency for its turnaround of The New Zealand code for cycling.
Legal, Annual Report, and Technical Communicator categories
Southern Cross Travel Insurance took out the Best Legal Document award for its Domestic Travel Insurance Policy Document.
National Trauma Network won Best Plain English Annual Report for its New Zealand Trauma Registry Annual Report 2019/20.
The Best Plain English Technical Communicator was the team at thinkstep-anz.
Spotlight on the humble sentence
Auckland City Council won the award for Best Plain English Sentence Transformation.
People’s Choice — the best ‘but no worst’
Several top-notch entries were submitted by members of the public for the People’s Choice — Best Plain English Communication category. Kiwibank won this award for its letter We’re improving our home loan documents.
One of the judges of this entry said, ‘Taking complex subject matter such as home loans and making it accessible is not easy. Kiwibank have done an excellent job in communicating this, and on a single A4 sheet! Bravo!’
And in what is thought to be a first for the Plain English Awards, no entries were received for the notorious People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain award. Lead judge for this category Simon Hertnon says he’d like to think that this is a good sign: ‘A sign that people are putting more thought into their communications. That the plain language message is getting through.’
Telling stories to inspire others
The theme of this year’s Awards was ‘Story!’ Awards founder and CE of plain language consultancy Write Limited Lynda Harris says:
‘The goal of sharing stories is to help people understand the “why” behind different plain language projects. That is, why a plain language approach was vitally important for that project, and how it helped its success.
‘By telling people’s stories, we want to shine a light on the impact of people’s efforts. And to give the public a glimpse behind the scenes of plain language as it plays out in the lives of individuals and organisations. Ultimately, we’d like people to be inspired to take similar approaches.’
Thanks to Awards sponsors
Sponsors play a key part in keeping the Plain English Awards going. Organisers would like to thank the following organisations for their support: WriteMark Limited, Write Limited, the Wright Family Foundation, Graphic Solutions, NZ Super Fund, Newsroom, Streamliners, TechCommNZ, Skillset, printing.com, MoneyHub, Consumer, Shelly Davies, Community Comms Collective, Editor Software (UK), Informed Investor magazine, Kendons, and Modica Group.
Find out more
See the full list of winners and finalists
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony, Communications, Media release
2021 Plain English Awards, Best communication, Best Plain English Communication, Brainstrain, champions, clear communication, People's Choice, plain English, Plain English Awards, plain language, recognition, writing for the public
A line-up of the best for 2022 | Photo by Nicola Welby
Congratulations to all our 2021 winners — what a fabulous achievement! Our judges were so impressed with the quality of entries this year and you deserve all the praise you’ve received.
We loved hearing the plain language stories that you shared with us. And we’re proud that you’ve kept the torch burning bright for clear communication in such a busy year. So pat yourselves on the back for a job well done!
Our Awards champions — raising the bar for clear communication
An extra special shoutout to Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand, winner of the Plain English Champion — Best Organisation category. And another one to Lauren Kelindeman from Legalite in Australia, winner of the Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team category. Your contributions to the plain language movement are making all the difference to the lives of everyone in our corner of the world.
As our founder Lynda Harris said,
Whether you’re a bold visionary, a passionate campaigner, or a quiet doer, you have qualities that the world needs more of. You have stories to tell about people who need clarity and connection. And you have the skills to inspire others to be champions like you.
So keep up the good fight and stand up for what’s right! Because you’re our champions for 2021 and we couldn’t be more proud.
Find out more about the 2021 winners
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony
2021 finalists, 2021 Plain English Awards, 2021 winners, Best Annual Report, Best Individual or Team, Best Legal Document, Best Organisation, Best Plain English Communication, Best Plain English Sentence Transformation, Best Plain English Technical Communicator, Best Plain English Turnaround, Best Plain English Website, Champion, clear communication, judges, People's Choice, sponsors. Awards ceremony
The Plain Language Bill starts its journey | Photo by Sulthan Auliya on Unsplash
Remember the Plain English Awards ceremony in 2018? As well as being the last time we held the full Awards, this inspiring event saw guest speaker Justin Lester, Wellington mayor at the time, describe Wellington as the City of Clarity.
Meet our guest speaker for 2021
Now New Zealand has the chance to become a ‘country of clarity’. It’s fitting that our guest speaker for the Awards ceremony is Nelson MP Rachel Boyack. Rachel’s private member’s bill, the Plain Language Bill, was recently drawn in the ballot.
Why country of clarity? With the potential for this bill to become law, New Zealand could join the countries around the world that have a legislative basis for plain language in their government agencies and public communications.
What’s the Plain Language Bill all about?
The Bill promotes the use of plain English in official documents and websites. Comprehensible information from government organisations is a basic democratic right. Plain English must become the standard for all official public and private communication in New Zealand. This Bill requires the New Zealand Government to start making that happen.
A champion of plain language
Rachel is eloquent when talking about the benefits of plain language for everyone in the community. She’s excited to be championing a cause she believes in through supporting the Bill.
It’s not about dumbing down the language but making it easier for people to understand.
We’re honoured that Rachel has kindly agreed to be our guest speaker in spite of her busy schedule. We look forward to hearing her contribution to the Awards ceremony.
More about our guest speaker
Rachel Boyack MP: Champion of plain language
Rachel lives in Nelson with her husband Scott, and before entering Parliament she worked as a health and safety coordinator for the Anglican Diocese of Nelson.
In her previous role as an organiser with FIRST Union, she negotiated collective employment agreements with large companies like Nelson Pine, lifting wages for hundreds of workers in the Nelson region.
Rachel has volunteered on the Boards of Nelson Women’s and Children’s Refuge and the Nelson Environment Centre. She was the Chair of Labour’s Policy Council leading up to the last election.
A trained singer, she has a Music Degree from the University of Auckland and was a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir. She also enjoys spending time at Nelson’s beautiful Tahunanui Beach with Scott and their Labrador, Phoebe.
Posted In: Communications
Confusion costs readers and sends them in the wrong direction | Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
Have you spotted a piece of bad communication in the wild recently? Do you know of a particularly painful sentence or paragraph that needs taming? Although entries are officially closed for the 2021 Awards, we’re still keen to talk about one of the categories that’s a fan favourite — the Worst Brainstrain Communication.
We’ll be highlighting some brainstraining sentences during the Awards ceremony
Send us a gnarly sentence or two that you’ve had a close encounter with. We’ll be doing a few callouts for the Brainstrain category during the 2021 Awards ceremony on Thursday, 14 October. So we’re keen to get as many sentences as we can before next Thursday.
Our callouts on the day won’t be official winners of the infamous Brainstrain trophy bin filled with sour worm lollies from previous Awards ceremonies.
But rest assured that we’re keen to share your examples so that we can continue to highlight where work still needs to be done in the interests of clear communication.
The traditional Brainstrain trophy is a bin containing sour worm lollies | Photo by Bill Craighead on Unsplash
Why it’s good to point out the bad
In good humour, the Brainstrain award puts a confusing document or webpage under the spotlight. And we hope that the organisations responsible will rewrite them in beautifully plain English.
Previous winners of the Brainstrain have seen the light and taken the callout on the chin. They’ve worked on their documents and improved them, sometimes even turning up as winners in the Best Plain English Turnaround Award in subsequent years.
Send us any confusing sentences you’ve found before Thursday, 14 October by entering them in Submittable. (You’ll need to log in to your Submittable account or set up an account.)
Send us your Brainstrain sentences
The fan-favourite Brainstrain trophy was last awarded in 2018 | Photo by Rebecca McMillan Photography
Join us to celebrate the 2021 Plain English Awards
We’ll be celebrating all our finalists and winners of the 2021 Plain English Awards on Thursday, 14 October. So come along and enjoy the online ceremony — it’s a free event!
Register to attend the 2021 Awards ceremony
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony, Brainstrain
2021 Plain English Awards, Brainstrain, clear communication, jargon-busting, People's Choice, transformation, Worst Brainstrain