Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


It’s time to celebrate! | Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

With preparations for our cyber-ceremony in full swing, you can now register your place to attend.

Register for the 2021 Plain English Awards ceremony

What you can look forward to at this year’s event

This year, for the first time, we’re running our celebrations online. While we’ll miss celebrating with people in person, our aim is to make this year’s event super special in its own way.

Our MC James Elliott is bound to delight

Now in his fifth year as MC of the Awards, lawyer and comedian James Elliott is a firm highlight at our ceremonies. James is back this year and guaranteed to entertain.

Find out more about James

Bring your supporters along — we can host more people online

With no limits to seat numbers, we’d love you to invite as many of your supporters to join you at the ceremony as possible. In the past, we’ve often had to limit spaces to 150 people — but that’s not a problem this year!

Our overseas entrants and supporters can easily join us

We’ve always extended an invitation to our ceremony to both our domestic and international supporters. However, often the overseas contingent isn’t able to make it. Happily (and time differences aside), that’s not a problem this year either!

We opened up entries to Australia for the first time this year

Read about our international panel of judges

Celebrate International Plain Language Week at the same time

Our Awards ceremony is right in the middle of International Plain Language Week. This gives you a readymade way to get involved in an international event that celebrates clarity.

So, don’t hang about — register your place at the 2021 Plain English Awards ceremony

Thanks again to our sponsors for their commitment to the (plain language) cause

We have an incredible line-up of sponsors this year. We’d like to thank them all for their support.

Read about this year’s sponsors

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Looking forward to celebrating this year’s winners | Photo by Universal Eye on Unsplash

Our international panels of judges have settled on this year’s finalists.

Find out which entries made the grade

So, what made an entry good enough to become a finalist this year? Here’s a taste of what our judges had to say:

[The writer] is fighting against engrained writing attitudes, including in [their] company, which is quite courageous.

I found the content incredibly compelling. The language, structure and visual devices beautifully enhance this detailed and informative content.

The combination of plain writing and relevant graphics make [this document] a joy to read.

[This document] is an excellent example of keeping anxious people informed on a critical topic.

We’re now counting down to our virtual Awards ceremony on Thursday, 14 October, where we’ll announce and celebrate this year’s winners.

Find out more about our ceremony plans

See who entered the Awards in 2021

Meet our judges

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We’ve got lots to celebrate this year! | Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Join us to celebrate our finalists and winners at our virtual Awards ceremony on Thursday, 14 October.

Our people are at the heart of what we do

Every year we have more people involved in the Awards than you’d expect. Many of these people are behind the scenes and plenty of them not in the limelight.

We love getting lots of our people together at the end of the Awards season to celebrate our finalists and winners, and promote the benefits of clear communication. Our Awards ceremony usually happens in person, but this year we need to think differently.

We’ll celebrate online for 2021

We knew from the outset that we’d need to think laterally when planning for our 2021 ceremony. So, in place of our in-person event, we’re going to run our Awards ceremony online.

We’ll miss being able to applaud our winners in person. At the same time, we’re excited about the many opportunities running an online ceremony gives us. We definitely won’t have a seat limit in 2021! And we’re going to run the ceremony at a time that works better for some our overseas judges and entrants. A flow-on benefit will be that you’ll be able to join during the day if you’re in New Zealand.

Our Awards ceremony is right in the middle of International Plain Language Week too. So you’ve got a readymade way to get involved in an international event that celebrates clarity.

So come along, grab your friends and supporters, and join us at our online Awards ceremony. We’ll have more details for you soon. For now, make sure you pencil in 11am until 1pm on Thursday, 14 October to celebrate with us!

Oh, and did we say that registrations will be free of charge this year? See you in October!

Who’s in the running for an award in 2021?

Huge thanks to our sponsors, who make the Plain English Awards possible

Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Awards ceremony, Communications, Finalists, Judges, People's Choice awards, Plain English Awards, Winners

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The next step in the Awards process is for our judges to do their jobs as they work towards deciding on this year’s finalists and winners | Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Entries for the 2021 Plain English Awards have now closed. But that doesn’t mean things have come to a standstill! Quite the opposite, in fact.

Our judges now get to work

We use an online platform called Submittable to accept entries. Submittable is also the place where our judges review each of these entries. Judging is broken down into several different phases as the judges work their way towards agreeing on a shortlist, finalists, and eventually a category winner.

Read about our fabulous judges

Read about the judging process

When you’ll next hear about entries

Good judging takes time. And given that our panels are made up of experts around the world as well as around New Zealand, our judges have the added ‘hurdle’ of communicating across different time zones.

Once our judges do come to agreement, we’ll publicise their shortlist decisions. Judges will then continue their deliberations and we’ll announce this year’s finalists on Thursday, 16 September. And the big announcement — this year’s Plain English Awards winners — will be made on Thursday, 14 October by our media partner, Newsroom.

To add to these broadcasts, our Awards ambassador, Shelly Davies, will talk about our winning entries on nationwide television in the days after the big announcement.

Thanks for your interest in the 2021 Plain English Awards. You’ll be hearing from us again soon. In the meantime, check out the videos in our gallery and share your plain language story!

How you can keep up-to-date

As always, we’ll continue to publish Awards updates in our website blog. You’ll also be able to keep up-to-date through our social media platforms and our newsletter.

Email to subscribe to our newsletter.

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Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Finalists, Judges, Plain English Awards, Shortlists, Winners

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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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'We worked for 3 years to get this!' Winner of the Best Plain English Document — Private sector Jacqueline Taylor celebrates her success. Photo by Rebecca McMillan Photography.

What an amazing ceremony last night! Congratulations to all our 2018 winners — you deserved all the recognition you got. The feedback you each received from your judges truly shows that plain English is alive and kicking in New Zealand. It also shows that, as a Trust, we’re making great strides towards fulfilling our goals.

‘Keep going and spread the word!’

A special mention to the winners of our Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team category. The work that’s gone into the Better Letters Project at the Ministry of Social Development is seriously changing the lives of everyday New Zealanders.

Our judges got it right when they said, ‘Keep going and spread the word! Imagine what New Zealand’s public service might look like if every government department took this approach!’

Find out about this year’s winners

Take a look at photographer Rebecca McMillan’s wonderful photos of the ceremony


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It's time to celebrate this year's winners! Image by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Tickets are available now for this year’s Plain English Awards ceremony

Where? City Gallery Wellington

When? Thursday, 15 November

Come along and celebrate at this year’s ceremony. Join finalists, judges, sponsors, and other supporters for an evening of fun, festivity, and above all celebration.

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester will give an opening address at 5.30pm. And lawyer and comedian James Elliott will be our MC for the evening. Financial advisor, wealth coach, and author Martin Hawes will also return as a guest speaker.

You’ll have a chance to mix and mingle, with drinks and canapés, following the official segment of the ceremony.

Get your tickets now!

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They're the sparkle on the plain English cupcake. Well done to this year's finalists. Photo by Audrey Fretz on Unsplash

Our judges have announced this year’s finalists. Find out who they are here

What makes an entry good enough to become a finalist? According to our judges, it’s all about being like this:

  • ‘Overall, we have a strong example of how a company can take complex information and share the details both with clarity and with compelling storytelling. Kudos!’
  • ‘I would certainly use this product as an example of effective plain writing and information design.’
  • ‘This is an exemplary document.’

Now the countdown begins to our Awards ceremony on Thursday, 15 November, where we’ll announce and celebrate this year’s winners. Watch this space for details about how to get tickets.

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Finalists, Plain English Awards

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

Our rights and obligations are enshrined in the law. But we can’t claim those rights or fulfil those obligations if we don’t understand them. Understanding truly is power. It unlocks our democratic rights.

That fact is recognised in the Plain English Awards category, Best Plain English Legal Document.

Last year’s winner sets the standard for legal drafting

The document that won last year was a mammoth effort. A team from the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) combined twelve Acts into one: the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017.

The judges said, ‘Parliamentary Counsel Office did a great job of combining multiple acts that were a confusing hodgepodge of legislation into a single intelligible act.

‘A clear understanding of the audience and consultation with these groups made the project stronger. The explanations in the legislation were particularly useful.

‘The revised Act is a great step forward in New Zealand for plain English legislation. And the intended audience has a much clearer picture of contractual law in New Zealand.’

You can enter any kind of legal document

Are you thinking of entering this Awards category? The 2017 winner is a hard act to follow, but don’t feel you have to try, says Awards organiser Melissa Mebus.

‘Any kind of legal document is worth entering — whether it’s long and complex or short and simple. The important thing is that it’s about a legally enforceable law, process, obligation, or right. Examples are contracts, T&Cs, notices, and legal opinions.’

Plain English legal writing brings business benefits

The tide is turning in favour of plain English in legal writing in New Zealand and overseas. Plain language practices report happier clients and increased business. And plain English can bring unforeseen benefits, with more clients meeting deadlines just one example.

One document, two entries

The PCO team also entered the rewritten Act in the Best Plain English Turnaround category, where it was shortlisted. Melissa says, ‘We welcome multiple entries for the same document. A good document or website can tick many plain English boxes, and should get the recognition it deserves.’

To enter, you have to submit the original document or webpage as well as the rewrite. The rewrite must be in current use.

Improve your chances of winning an award

Find out how to give winning your best shot at the Awards Trophy Tips Seminar on Friday, 4 May. You’ll get expert advice from past winners, judges, and supporters of the Awards. Attendance is free — book for the Trophy Tips Seminar online.

Entries now open on Monday, 7 May

We said we’d open on 1 May but we need a little bit of extra time as we upgrade to a new entry platform. Watch for entries opening next Monday, 7 May. Entries close on Friday, 31 August.

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Finalists, Legal writing, Plain English Awards, Trophy Tips Seminar

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Information for new migrants needs to be as clear and user-friendly as possible. Image by Dmitri Ratushny. Unsplash licence.

You’ll all be familiar with the idea of the world becoming smaller as fast-paced communications connect even the remotest places on earth to the wider world. With the click of a button we can instantly be in touch with someone as far afield as Siberia in the far north and Antarctica in the far south. But does the amount of communicating we’re doing necessarily mean that we’re understanding each other?

What if I just speak a little louder?

I don’t have to dig too deep into my own experiences of travel outside New Zealand to know how difficult a language difference can make life. I even remember once falling into the dire trap of increasing my volume to try to get my message across. How was that ever going to work? Luckily for me (but not the poor person I was talking to), our topic of attempted conversation wasn’t too important.

So what must life be like for the many migrants who make their way to New Zealand each year and don’t speak English fluently? To put things in perspective, a quarter of New Zealand’s population was born overseas. And for many of these people, English is their second — or even third — language. Imagine what these statistics mean for an organisation like Immigration New Zealand (INZ), which needs to communicate ideas, many of them complex, through a variety of mediums every day.

What plain English means for migrants to New Zealand

At the end of November last year, supporters of the annual Plain English Awards celebrated its 2017 winners at a ceremony in Wellington. INZ was one of the Awards’ valuable sponsors, and representative Anne-Marie Masgoret gave a brief address during the ceremony. While no one in the audience needed any reminding of the importance and value of plain English, Anne-Marie’s words served as terrific reinforcement.

Image, Anne-Marie Masgoret, right, from sponsors Immigration New Zealand, with winners Anthony Frith and Bridget Cheesman

Anne-Marie Masgoret, right, from sponsors Immigration New Zealand, with winners Anthony Frith and Bridget Cheesman.

‘Moving to live and work in a new country involves finding out a great deal of information that locals simply take for granted,’ Anne-Marie explained.

Focusing on user-friendly information

INZ’s goal is to help migrants make New Zealand their home. They aim to support these people to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of New Zealand life. And they do this by communicating clearly and simply through a variety of mediums.

INZ also relies on other organisations to deliver their message directly to migrants.

‘New Zealand organisations are very good at providing newcomers with information. However, the information provided is not always written in a user-friendly way,’ said Anne-Marie.

‘For those new to New Zealand, the quality of information migrants receive as they settle into their new life here can make all the difference in the way they settle into this country and make it their home. It can also make a difference to whether a newcomer acts on information or just ignores it.’

Keeping it clear for those new to New Zealand

To support organisations to write clear communications, INZ created the Keeping It Clear resource. This aims to help organisations create or rewrite information in a short, simple, and easy-to-understand format.

Check out INZ’s Keeping it Clear resource

Find out about the winners of the 2017 Plain English Awards

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