Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


Let’s celebrate our greatest communicators, when we’re up and running again. Image by Clark Tibbs / Unsplash licence.

You, like us, will no doubt have seen many examples of wonderfully clear communication related to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few months. We’ve received several messages in this time from people wanting to acknowledge some of these communications.

When we’re up and running again, we’ll welcome entries in the Plain English Awards from people looking for acknowledgement of their own hard work. We’ll also be encouraging members of the public to nominate the work of others in our People’s Choice categories.

While we’re still on hold at the moment, we are looking ahead to figure out when the time will be right to run the Awards again. All going well, we should be on track to open up entries next year, in 2021.

So hold on to all the examples of clear communications that you’re creating, using, sharing, and benefitting from. We couldn’t be more keen to celebrate them when we we’re back.

Read about the winning entries at our most recent full Awards

Watch Write Limited’s ‘Thank you’ video, acknowledging those who’ve communicated so clearly during the COVID pandemic

Posted In: 2020 Plain English Awards

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While we're not running the Awards in 2020, we will be back! So hold on to your entries. Image by Neel / Unsplash licence

The annual Plain English Awards is a world-class event that relies on the efforts and support of a large and varied group of plain language enthusiasts. From our generous sponsors to our international panels of judges; our administrative team through to our entrants — every year we benefit from a huge amount of passion and commitment.

We acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on many individuals and organisations, so we’ve decided not to run the Awards this year. We’re mindful that many organisations that would normally enter may be under greater pressure than usual. And that other organisations and individuals who usually get involved with the Awards may have less availability.

Our patron, Chloe Wright, supports the decision: ‘I think this option makes sense for this year,’ she says. ‘So many difficult decisions have had to be made over the past few months. We must look to a different and better future by coming through COVID shaken but whole.’

We’ll be ready to roll again when the time’s right

Although we’re not running the Awards this year, we will be back soon. We’ve loved the wonderful examples of plain English that we’ve seen being used both in New Zealand and overseas to communicate clearly during the pandemic. This heightened interest in clear communication gives us an extra incentive to get back up and running when the time’s right.

We look forward to celebrating the efforts of so many communicators at such an important time. So hold on to your entries — we won’t be hosting the Awards for a while, but we’ll make sure you can enter projects you’re especially proud of from your work in 2020.

Keep safe and well. And be sure to check in from time to time. We’ll let you know as soon as we’re ready to get rolling again.

Posted In: 2020 Plain English Awards, Industry awards


We're suspending Awards preparations for now. We'll back as soon as the time's right. Image by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash licence

In light of the current situation in New Zealand and around the world, we’ve decided to suspend preparations for this year’s Awards. We’re conscious that people’s health and safety are the priority at the moment, as they are for us at the Awards.

We’ll welcome your entries with open arms when the time is right

We know many of you have already spent time considering and preparing entries for this year’s Awards. Please hold on to those entries!

Although we’re putting preparations on hold for now, we’ll keep a close eye on developments. When the time feels right to proceed again, you’ll be the first to know.

We’re here if you have any questions

You — our readers, past winners, future entrants, supporters — mean a lot to us. We’d be very happy to hear from you if you have any questions. Don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can reach us:

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The 2020 Plain English Awards open on 31 March. Image by Kevin Bidwell / Pexels licence

On 31 March 1889 Gustave Eiffel’s tower opened in Paris. On 31 March 1959, the Dalai Lama trekked across the Himalayan Mountains from Lhasa to seek asylum in India. On 31 March 2011, a deadly Egyptian cobra was found alive one week after escaping the reptile house at New York’s Bronx zoo.

On 31 March this year, New Zealand’s Oscars for clear communication turns on the lights and rolls out the fancy carpet for entries in the 2020 Plain English Awards.

Everyone’s a winner

The Awards recognise outstanding efforts in communicating clearly. They’re proof of the power of good communication in doing good.

While the winners get rightful recognition, the real winners are the people and communities who get the information they need. And people feel good when they know what a writer is trying to say and that has their interests at heart.

This year the Plain English Awards has 13 categories open. The Plain English Awards Trust is looking forward to receiving quality entries across all these categories.

Plain English Awards categories

  • Plain English Champion
    • Best Organisation
    • Best Individual or Team
  • Best Plain English Document
    • Public Sector
    • Private Sector
  • Best Plain English Sentence Transformation
  • Best Plain English Annual Report
  • Best Plain English Legal Document
  • Best Plain English Technical Communicator
  • Best Plain English Turnaround
  • People’s Choice
    • Best Plain English Communication
    • Worst Brainstrain Communication

More than prizes

Apart from the accolades and feathers in caps for winning, past finalists have found that they gained a huge amount even from the judges’ comments they received. Feedback from an anonymous survey of entrants referenced the value of this feedback.

‘The judge’s feedback is priceless – WOW… whatever we paid to enter is nothing compared to that feedback document.’

The Awards get great publicity each year and help boost awareness that the public doesn’t need to put up with poorly written information.
Winners also benefit by being seen as an attractive organisation that can lure strong writers and talented team members.

‘It reinforces that we don’t just say that we communicate with people in clear and plain language — that we actually do.’

Image, person sitting at the top of Mount Everest in the snow

It’s clear at the top. Image by Mário Simoes / Flikr licence

You can see your effort has paid off

Writing in plain English and winning an award for your craft can be like mountain climbing. The effort is immense, but the views from the top are crystal clear.

On 29 May 1953 Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest. And 29 May 2020 is the last day for entries…
Here’s how to enter

Posted In: 2020 Plain English Awards, Industry awards


A beautiful handmade trophy is one of several prizes in store for Accuro Health Insurance. Image by A Beautiful Photo

Winners in the 14th annual People’s Choice Awards were announced by Awards media partner Newsroom last week. The People’s Choice Awards recognise the best and worst in government and corporate communications, nominated anonymously by members of the public.

Accuro Health Insurance comes out tops

The award for the People’s Choice — Best Plain English Communication goes to Accuro Health Insurance for their website.
See the official announcement on the Newsroom website

The person who nominated this website said:

It’s a beautifully clear, simple website. I found it clear and logical.

The international panel of judges said about this entry:

This website is a very good example of plain English used to support a business to communicate clearly and in an engaging way with as many New Zealand residents and citizens as possible. I’d expect it to have a positive impact on sales to new customers and existing customer retention and engagement.

This is a very strong site. It gives a great first impression, drawing the reader in from the start. This is then followed up by concise and engaging content, and a simple-to-navigate layout that makes it easy for readers to find and do what they need to.

[Accuro has] done a good job creating a user experience that is clear and helpful, which is refreshing for an insurance organisation.

Image, James Elliot from Newsroom

Lawyer, comedian and Awards MC James Elliott announced winners on the Newsroom website.

Bad news for Auckland Council

The award for the People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain Communication goes to Auckland Council for its Proposed Plan Change letter.
See the official announcement on the Newsroom website

The person who nominated this document said:

A good friend of mine came in waving her [copy of this letter] at me, saying she had a Master’s degree in English and couldn’t understand a word of it.

The international panel of judges said about this entry:

This document is very difficult to understand, which disturbs me because it seems very important for landowners. Also, the writer portrays the content as unimportant, but I don’t think it is so, and this makes me suspicious.

The council is trying to bring a planning change to the attention of its ratepayers and residents. But it has failed miserably to think about how to get that message across in plain language. [The letter] appears to be written for people who understand council processes, not for those who will be most affected by the change.

The third component of this communication is already written in plain language, so the skills to write the rest in plain language exist. This is poor performance for a very important matter, and a huge opportunity missed. Many residents were frustrated by this communication.

New Zealanders continue to benefit after 14 years

The People’s Choice Awards are held each year and form part of the Plain English Awards. The full Plain English Awards are held every second year. Entries for the 2020 Plain English Awards will open at the end of March 2020.

After 14 years of Awards, New Zealanders continue to reap the benefits of business and government using clear communication to engage with their clients, consumers, and customers. The Awards reinforce the element of care that lies behind reader-focused communications.

Awards founder (and CE of plain language consultancy Write Limited) Lynda Harris said care is one of the qualities associated with plain English that’s closest to her heart.

People who choose to communicate in plain English do, by definition, care about their readers. They put the needs of their readers first as they think and write. They care about people, impact, and outcomes.

Awards sponsors

Sponsors for this year’s Awards included WriteMark, Write Limited, Wright Family Foundation, Graphic Solutions, Newsroom,, MoneyHub, and Consumer NZ.

Other sponsors, whose contributions to the Awards were invaluable, are Editor Software (United Kingdom), JUNO Investing Magazine, and Kendons.

Find out more

See Newsroom’s official announcement of this year’s winners

Read what our winners and finalists had to say on our winners page

For more information, contact:
Gregory Fortuin, Chair, WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust
021 465 254

Posted In: 2019 People's Choice Awards, Brainstrain, People's Choice awards

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Judge Matt Huntington, left, hands over a trophy to last year’s winner of the People’s Choice Best category, Troy Churton from the Commission for Financial Capability. Photo by Rebecca McMillan.

Awards media partner Newsroom will announce the winners of this year’s People’s Choice Awards on Thursday, 28 November.

We can’t wait to find out which of our finalists have come out tops. And we’re very excited to have the support of Newsroom to help us spread the word.
James Elliott — our fabulous and funny MC at Awards presentations for the last 5 years — is continuing his support for plain language by being our star announcer.

All sorts of goodies await the winner of the Best Plain English Communication

We know our judges have been thinking long and hard about which of the top four nominations in their category deserves to win. What can the finalists, all supported by members of the public, look forward to if they win?

First of all, we’re pretty sure they’ll be celebrating their award, knowing that their communication has had a positive impact in the world.

As well, thanks to our wonderful sponsors, the winner will walk away with some fabulous prizes.

They’ll be thrilled to receive the iconic trophy in steel and bronze by Wellington sculptor Campbell Maud. They’ll enjoy using the latest StyleWriter plain English editing software from Editor Software to craft future documents.

And we think they’ll be excited to extend their skills with a place on any of Write Limited’s 1-day open workshops.

A little bit of fun for our Brainstrain winner

Our Brainstrain judges are all industry experts and take their roles very seriously. Even so, we always present the Brainstrain Award with good humour. That’s why the winner of the Worst Brainstrain Communication gets the famous Brainstrain rubbish bin filled with sour worms.

Image, winner's bucket of gummy worms from the People's Choice Awards 2018

Who’ll win the notorious rubbish bin full of sour worms this year? Photo by Rebecca McMillan.

Winners of our Brainstrain category need serious prizes too! They’ll also get:

  • the latest StyleWriter plain English editing software from Editor Software
  • 2 hours free consultancy from Write Limited to start transforming the document or webpage into plain English
  • a place on any of Write Limited’s 1-day open workshops.

Good luck to all our People’s Choice finalists!

We look forward to finding out our winners on Thursday, 28 November. Why not join us?

Posted In: 2019 People's Choice Awards, Brainstrain, People's Choice awards

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Hands up who's excited about the upcoming Plain English Awards? Image by Jaime Lopes/Unsplash licence.

We’re encouraged by the amount of interest people are showing in next year’s Awards. We hope this is a sign that our goal of creating a public preference for plain English is working!

So that you’re ready when the time comes, here are the dates you need to know for the 2020 Awards.

  • Entries open: Tuesday, 31 March
  • Entries close: Friday, 29 May
  • Shortlist announced: Thursday, 18 June
  • Finalists announced: Thursday, 23 July
  • Winners announced: Thursday, 20 August

Find out more about entering the 2020 Plain English Awards
Email us to find out about sponsorship options for next year’s Awards

Posted In: 2020 Plain English Awards, Industry awards, Plain English Awards

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Our winners will be announced on 28 November. Image by Michael Vavro/Unsplash licence.

On Thursday, 28 November, lawyer and comedian James Elliott will announce this year’s winners on the Newsroom website. No more biting your nails in anticipation!

What’s making our Brainstrain judges cringe

Initial feedback from our judges in the Brainstrain category hints at a lot of work needed to bring some of the nominations up to par. Judges have even expressed concern that ‘documents of this standard are still being written’.

From what we know so far, our Brainstrain judges have been frustrated by excessive jargon and technical terms, poor flow, and vague and confusing words, among other gripes. One judge hinted that ‘documents like this used to be the norm, but that’s no longer the case as plain language steadily spreads’.

What’s making our Best Communication judges smile

In contrast to what our Brainstrain judges have been grappling with, judges in our Best Communication category have been reporting lots of good news. They’ve been reviewing nominations that are apparently engaging from the outset, sensitive to the reader, easy to navigate, and attractive. Feedback from one of our judges even implied that one of the nominations they’d reviewed was ‘fun to read’!

Make sure you check in to the Newsroom website on Thursday, 28 November. We’ll also direct you to the online announcement through our own website.

Posted In: 2019 People's Choice Awards, Brainstrain, People's Choice awards

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We’ll now hold our fundraiser around the time our 2020 Plain English Awards open. Image by Alexander Schimmeck. Unsplash license.

Big thanks to those of you who were interested in our film fundraiser event. We’ve decided to postpone this event until early next year, to coincide with our 2020 Awards opening.

We’ll let you know details about the rescheduled fundraiser closer to the time. In the meantime, keep an eye on important dates for next year’s Plain English Awards.

Entries open: Tuesday, 31 March
Entries close: Friday, 29 May
Shortlist announced: Thursday, 18 June
Finalists announced: Thursday, 23 July
Winners announced: Thursday, 20 August

Posted In: Fundraising

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Have you heard the news? Our judges have chosen their finalists. Image by Rakicevic Nenad. Pexels license.

They said it wasn’t an easy task. However, after running over their shortlisted entries with a fine-tooth comb, our judges have settled on this year’s finalists.

Who are our Best finalists?

The following nominations are finalists in our People’s Choice — Best Plain English Communication category:

Who are our Brainstrain finalists?

The following nominations are finalists in our People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain category:

  • Auckland City Council — Proposed Plan Change letter
  • Christchurch City Council — Te Wai Ora o Tāne Draft Integrated Water Strategy
  • Rabo Capital Securities Limited — Redemption Notice letter

What happens next

Our judges in each category will now review their selected entries and decide on a winner. Our media partner, Newsroom, will announce this year’s winners on their website on Thursday, 28 November.

Posted In: 2019 People's Choice Awards, Brainstrain, Finalists, Industry awards

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