Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Plain English in legal writing — Awards celebrate a basic democratic right

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.