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
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
Keep sharing your love of plain language with the world | Photo by Cristian Dina on Pexels
Now that entries for the 2021 Plain English Awards are closed, our judges are hard at work reviewing all the wonderful entries we received. But that doesn’t mean everything stops until we announce the finalists and then the winners. You can still spread the good word and share your love story for plain language.
Keep the conversation buzzing through our gallery
You can browse our video gallery to hear everyone’s stories about their love for plain language, the journey they went on for their entry, or about a project they’re working on.
Look through our video gallery and hear what others have to say
We’d love to hear your plain language love story — we’re keen to hear from all our local and international plain language companions!
Tell your plain language story in a video
Why not create your own video to share in our gallery? Sometimes the hardest part about making a video is where to begin. Believe me, it’s simpler than you think!
You don’t have to be Peter Jackson and direct the next fantasy epic (although that would be amazing). And we’re not looking for Down Under’s Next Top Video Maker.
You could talk to your phone and record a short video. Or you could create a slideshow or animation with either text or voice-over to tell your story. Or you might interview a colleague. We’ve got all sort of styles and formats in the gallery.
Here are some ideas for topics you might cover in your video.
- What does plain language mean to you?
- Why does plain language matter in your industry?
- How did your customers react when you used plain language in a document?
Check out our guidelines for creating your plain language story
Meet other plain language fans
You’re not alone in your love for plain language! Remember that you have friends all over the world who are passionate about plain language.
Our video gallery features stories from people all over the globe who appreciate all things plain and simple — and you can feature alongside them! So have fun and continue to spread the word about your plain language love story.
Find out who sponsors the Awards and loves plain language as much as you
Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on Awards news
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Story theme
clarity, clear communication, improved writing, plain language culture, Plain language story, Story, transformation, video story
Which do you choose? Nominate the good and the bad for the People’s Choice | Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
Have you ever found a document so challenging to read that you had to call on a mate for help? Or have you found a document so surprisingly easy to read that the stress lines of those furrowed brows just disappeared in a flash?
You have the power to tell the world what you want from anything you read — and plain is the way to go! And the two People’s Choice categories can help you and others choose plain over waffle.
Fight the good fight and show what’s right
Imagine a world where your insurance documents, legal contracts, application forms, and other important pieces of information are clear and easy to read. The more that we all speak up and demand clear communication, the better it gets for everyone!
The Best Plain English Communication shows the world that plain English is the right way to write. You can give someone a pat on the back for an amazing piece of writing.
As Awards MC and long-time supporter James Elliott puts it:
Plain English is hard to define but we recognise its absence when we see gobbledygook.
Show the world what good looks like, and help create demand for lots more good writing!
Nominate a People’s Choice Best Communication
Don’t strain the brain — make it plain
How many brains does it take to change a lightbulb? If it takes more than one person or read-through to ‘click’ with what you’re reading, the writer hasn’t done a good job.
Call out poor communication! The Brainstrain category highlights communications that could be much clearer. Past winners of this infamous award have taken the award in good humour and seen the opportunities to improve.
Nominate a Brainstrain
Let the People’s Choice be your voice!
Vote for clarity and clear communication. Exercise your democratic right and let your voice be heard.
We don’t want to deal with jargon. We don’t want obscurity. We don’t want confusion when we read anything. We want to understand everything, plain and simple!
Submit your nomination
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, People's Choice awards
Best Plain English Communication, Brainstrain, clear communication, jargon, People's Choice, power of plain English, 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