Shine the light on clear communication | Photo of colourful lights and reflections on Whairepo Lagoon by Ann Kilpatrick on Excio
Write and its sister company WriteMark are the founding sponsors of the Plain Language Awards — raising the bar for clear communication in New Zealand, and now in Australia too. Both Write and WriteMark are continuing their support for the Awards in 2022 as major sponsors.
Write chief executive Lynda Harris sees sponsorship of the Plain Language Awards as another way Write can champion the positive impact that clear communication has on people’s lives.
We support the Awards because they celebrate clear communication in business and government organisations. Everyone who enters the Awards, or who nominates a People’s Choice entry, is doing their bit to make the world a clearer place.
We believe that everyone in the community has the ethical and democratic right to understand communications that are central to their lives — government forms, legal documents, financial applications and agreements, terms and conditions, and more.
Ultimately, we want people to be able to understand important information. When that information is as clear as possible, they can make decisions more easily — especially those related to health, financial, and legal matters.
Let’s get the plain language message out
The Awards celebrate the communicators who create clear, accessible documents and websites. And in doing so, the Awards help to share the message that we all benefit from plain language in everyday life.
Plain language enables us all to participate more easily in society and make important legal, financial, and health decisions based on better understanding. That’s got to be a good outcome!
Check out the Awards categories for 2022
Are you willing to join the call for clear communication?
A plain language approach to communication means truly committing to putting customers and colleagues first — a culture-changing shift in how business and society operate. Our sponsors are joining the call for fairer, clearer communication from all sectors.
If you’re interested in supporting the 2022 Plain Language Awards, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and have you on our team.
Meet our sponsors
Become a sponsor
Anne-Marie Chisnall May 30th, 2022
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, Sponsors
Tags: clear communication, People's Choice Awards, Plain Language Awards, sponsors, Sponsorship, Write Limited, WriteMark
It's time for clarity! Tell your friends and colleagues that the Awards are open for entries | Photo of tūī by Mark Trufitt on Excio
It’s time for clarity! Entries are now open for this year’s Awards in all categories. As we’re sure you’ll agree, the Awards have a category for almost every type of business writing.
From macro to micro
Perhaps your plain language project has been running for a while and you’re now ready to enter the premier Plain Language Champion — Best Organisation category. Or you might be starting small by entering the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation.
From jargon-filled to easy-to-read
Have you turned a document or website from gobblydegook into something clear, concise, and jargon-free? Produced a shining example of anti-legalese that your clients love? Or dazzled your stakeholders with an awesome annual report that ticks all the reporting boxes?
Our judges are looking forward to seeing outstanding examples that defy the stereotypes of legal writing and business jargon.
From individual to team contributors
Technical communicators — get ready to send us your portfolios! Plain language project teams and individuals — prepare your submissions! We’re keen to celebrate your work whether it’s behind the scenes or front and centre in your organisation or sector.
From transformation to celebration
Another category the judges always love is the Best Plain Language Turnaround — especially if the turnaround was inspired by a Brainstrain nomination in previous years. And members of the public are welcome to nominate examples of the Best Communication or the Worst Brainstrain for the People’s Choice Awards.
You’ll find lots of inspiration in the statements from our 2021 winners and finalists. And plenty more on the gallery page where we showcase video stories of plain language initiatives.
Meet our 2021 winners and finalists
Get inspired by the stories in our gallery and share your own story
Entries are open until 31 July, so start planning your entry now. Once again we welcome entries from both New Zealand and Australian-based organisations.
Choose your categories for the 2022 Awards
Get involved with the People’s Choice Awards
Read about the benefits of sponsoring the Awards
Sign up to our newsletter for the latest news
Anne-Marie Chisnall May 12th, 2022
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, Communications, Story theme
Tags: Best Legal Document, Best Organisation, Best Plain Language Annual Report, Best Plain Language Document, Best Plain Language Legal Document, Best Plain Language Turnaround, Best Plain Language Website, Best Sentence Transformation, Best Technical Communicator, Brainstrain, jargon-busting, People's Choice, Plain Language Champion, transformation
The Plain Language Bill starts its journey | Photo by Sulthan Auliya on Unsplash
The Plain Language Bill is being considered by the New Zealand Parliament. If the bill becomes law, it will require all government agencies to communicate in plain language.
Below you can read the submission made by the WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust to the Governance and Administration Select Committee.
The WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust advocates for the use of plain language in all documents that affect our ability to participate and function well in New Zealand society.
The Trust achieves its purpose primarily through running the annual Plain English Awards, which aim to:
- improve government and business documents so that all New Zealanders can understand them raise public awareness of the need for, and benefits of, plain language
- create a public preference for organisations that choose to communicate in plain language.
What is plain language?
Plain language (sometimes called plain English in New Zealand) is a style of writing in which the language, structure, and presentation of a document all work together to help the reader. A document written in plain language is easy to read, understand, and act on after just one reading.
30 March 2022
Governance and Administration Select Committee
Submission in support of the Plain Language Bill
The WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust strongly supports the Plain Language Bill. This submission sets out our reasons and offers some suggestions to make the bill even more useful.
Why we support the bill
Over the past 17 years our interactions with public and private sector organisations, and members of the public, have given us an insider’s view of how language quality affects organisational outcomes and citizens’ lives. We can say unequivocally, that much public sector writing falls far short of the label ‘plain’. Many documents are unclear, lack a human-centred approach, and do not fulfil their purpose.
So, we strongly support any initiative to improve the quality of public-facing government documents. Our view is coloured by both the negatives mentioned below from the People’s Choice category and, conversely, by surveys that capture the real-world impact of excellent documents.
The public speak — evidence of harm and frustration from poorly written documents
In particular, documents and websites nominated in the People’s Choice Worst Brainstrain category emphasise the degree of harm and frustration, not to mention the waste of time and resources, created by poor writing.
A high proportion of the nominations in the Brainstrain category are complaints and concerns about communications from government agencies. They document the damage, frustration, and stress caused by unclear or misleading information, forms, and policies.
Just a few examples of government agencies ‘dobbed in’ by the public include the Reserve Bank, Inland Revenue, Commerce Commission, Ministry of Education, Department of Internal Affairs, Parliamentary Service, Earthquake Commission, and the (then State) Services Commission.
In many of the Brainstrain category nominations, we hear the real-world stories from people who were not served well by their government. They missed a deadline, couldn’t access a health service, missed out on the right benefit, underpaid tax, or didn’t apply for a government job — all because they didn’t understand, or they misunderstood. Most of these cases paint a picture of members of the public feeling vulnerable, disillusioned, and unheard.
Applying lessons from the good
Of course, the Plain English Awards are mostly about celebrating the good. We see outstanding examples of plain language every year and applaud those government agencies who write for the public with clarity and empathy. What would happen if all agencies wrote to that high standard? What if excellence were the norm?
Those agencies that write well give us a glimpse of what the Plain Language Act could achieve. Based on the outcomes noted on the entry forms of category winners, we’d see a positive transformation in writing quality inside government agencies. This shift would in turn result in a positive change in public perceptions.
In government agencies we’d see:
- significant efficiencies in producing documents, saving time and salaries
- greater ability to meet deadlines, with a better-quality result
- fewer misunderstandings
- more coherent, better planned messaging — getting it right the first time
- less time and angst answering the public’s queries because confusion has been removed
- less time editing or reworking colleagues’ documents that fall short of the basic standards of plain language
- less money being wasted on civil servants having to learn new ways of writing every time they move departments
- the likelihood that government ministers would drop their personal preferences that cost so many writers so much time.
We’d also see:
- easier working lives and greater job satisfaction for ministers and civil servants alike — this means reduced stress, fewer sick days, few resignations, and reduced likelihood of unmotivated workers
- a recognisable government style that is clear, human, and helpful.
For members of the public, we’d see:
- people feeling empowered to access the information they need
- more equitable access to information because people can find and understand the information they need
- reduced need to contact agencies to clarify information or instructions
- greater trust and confidence in government communications
- an observable humanising of tone, even in communications from regulatory agencies.
Additionally, businesses and other organisations would gain a touchstone for what good writing looks like — an impact that cannot be underestimated.
Recommendations to take the bill further
We have two recommendations to increase the impact of the bill and reduce the cost of administration across government agencies.
Include a plain language standard to clarify expectations
The Plain English Awards are based on the aspiration of writing to a high standard. Indeed, they take their name from standards-based sponsor WriteMark. Therefore, we highly recommend that the bill require government agencies to adopt a short and achievable writing standard such as the freely available and customisable Write Plain Language Standard.
We understand that this useful standard is already widely used and adapted by many New Zealand government agencies, plus a number of organisations internationally. Providing agencies with a documented standard makes expectations clear and avoids duplicate effort across the public sector.
Include consequences for non-compliance
The bill has so much potential to improve the effectiveness and reputation of government. But we are concerned that it may have much less impact if there are no meaningful consequences for failing to implement it. Our contacts in the US plain language movement tell us that the US Plain Writing Act was quite effective at first, but became much less so over time as agencies realised nothing would happen if they did not comply.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust
Anne-Marie Chisnall May 5th, 2022
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, Clear communication, Communications
Tags: clear communication, democracy, government communication, plain language, Plain Language Bill, writing for the public
It’s time for clarity like these crystal clear reflections at Lake Dunstan, Bendigo in Otago, New Zealand | Photo by Stewart Watson on Excio
With entries for the 2022 Awards opening very soon, we’ve been making a few changes at Awards Central!
Welcome to our new Awards coordinator
First of all, we welcome our new Awards coordinator, Shelly Shah, to the Awards Working Group. Shelly will be helping us with all aspects of the 2022 Awards — from organising the entry process and confirming sponsors and judges, right through to coordinating the Awards ceremony in late October. You’ll hear more from Shelly as we move through the various phases of the Awards.
Write Limited is proud to sponsor the Awards and provides administrative support as part of its sponsorship.
New year, new name
Have you noticed a slight change in our branding? Yes, the Awards are now called the Plain Language Awards.
Some of you commented in the survey at the end of 2021 recommending this change. Like you, we hope that changing the name of the Awards will make the event even more inclusive. And our trustees agreed unanimously with the proposal.
Changing the name of the Awards reflects the general shift to talk about ‘plain language’ in many community and business contexts, rather than ‘plain English’. You’ll have noticed that the Plain Language Bill that’s going through New Zealand’s Parliament also uses ‘plain language’ in its title!
The term ‘plain English’ is still relevant in international contexts when we wish to talk about plain English contrasted with, for example, plain Japanese or plain Spanish.
Awards founder Lynda Harris says:
We’ve been keen to update the name of the Awards for some time. But we knew we’d have a lot to do even though we’re only changing one word! We decided to make it happen for 2022. The Awards have been running for an incredible 17 years and this change feels like a fantastic refresh of our brand!
Awards patron Chloe Wright says:
‘Language’ is so relevant to today.
Our fabulous designer and long-term sponsor, Craig Christensen of Graphic Solutions, has been working his magic and is updating our branding elements and the website.
Thanks for your feedback on the 2021 Awards
Thanks to everyone who replied to our survey with their feedback. You can read the results of the survey on our website. Overall you thought the online ceremony worked well, enabling more people to join from around New Zealand and the rest of the world. And it’s great to hear that you agree the Awards are still making a difference!
Find out what people said about the Awards in 2021
Anne-Marie Chisnall May 4th, 2022
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, Communications
Tags: Industry awards, plain language, Plain Language Awards, sponsors