Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


Ever had to sign a contract you couldn't understand? | Image by Hellie Hadfield

Communication: as easy as it seems?

It’s easy to take communication for granted. It seems so natural to many of us.

But imagine, for a moment, you are suddenly dropped somewhere where everyone speaks an alien language — all the signs, information, and applications for assistance are suddenly indecipherable. How would you manage?

At least 17% of New Zealanders speak English as a second language. This means that none of the information around them is in their native tongue.

Access to services should be universal

Now imagine your elderly mother needs medical assistance, but the form she needs to fill in is written in an impossibly tiny font. The words are all squished together, and swimming on the page.

Did you know 1 in 5 Kiwis are blind or partially sighted?

Words matter. How we present them matters too.

Readability is key

And mutilated language can catch out even the most fluent and full-sighted among us.

How about your neighbour, who lost everything in a cyclone and then found that their insurance didn’t cover ‘acts of God’. But because this information was buried in pages and pages of small print, with no margins, at the very end of the policy, they didn’t know?

Or your cousin, who has recently migrated to New Zealand and is trying to correspond with an immigration lawyer. But all the information they are given is written in Elizabethan English?

Or a sleep-deprived young mum, who needs to apply for parental leave pay, but the overly complex website keeps sending her round and round in circles?


Plain language for the win

This is the importance of words, and how they are presented.

This is the importance of plain language.

And the real-world difference it makes.

Get involved

Have you seen a great example of plain language? Or a not-so-great one?

Nominations are open year-round for the People’s Choice categories in the Plain Language Awards.

People’s Choice — Best Plain Language Communication

People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain Communication

Posted In: Communications