Use your superpowers and spread the word about plain language | Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash
Lynda Harris, Write and WriteMark CEO and Awards founder, spoke at the Plain English Awards ceremony on 14 October 2021. Here is her introduction to the premier award of Plain English Champion — Best Organisation. The Champion category is sponsored by Write Limited.
So here we are in the middle of the Champion category with all this suspense before we announce the premier Award! For that reason I have been told to be very brief!
It’s no secret that the Champion category is my favourite. Not only because it honours such wonderful people and projects, but because the concept of being a Champion is absolutely inherent in the whole concept of the Awards.
Even though as a country we are so much better at plain language now, we still need to push for it. And the people who do the pushing, inspiring, and advocating are the champions. When you’re persuading a manager or a senior leader that clarity and connection is worth the time and effort, you’re being a champion. When you’re writing a business case for a plain language makeover, you’re being a champion. If you’re at this ceremony, you’re a champion.
So to all you champions, thank you!
Use your superpowers to make the world a better place
Years ago in 2007 we made a little animated video about a superhero who had P on his cape. That was P for PLAIN. Our PLAIN superhero swooped around workplaces converting people into superheros. Lots of plain language champions, in other words. It was a bit corny to be fair, but I often think that as plain language advocates and champions we are wearing a metaphorical superhero outfit.
I actually asked Google the defining qualities of a superhero and it helpfully told me that they were super strength, flight, telepathy, telekinesis, super speed, super intelligence, and super gadgets.
Well, you can take from that what you will. But the best bit that rings true is that they typically use their powers to help the world become a better place.
You are already using your superpowers to do just that. But maybe you never thought of it that way. 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 please take stock of your superpowers, don that cape, gather others around you, and continue to champion the cause for human-centred writing. Write’s slogan is ‘using the power of words for good’. Together we are all doing just that.
Congratulations to the winners of the Best Organisation Award!
Read about the winners of the Champion Best Organisation Award
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Media release: 14 October 2021
Winners in the 2021 annual Plain English Awards were announced at an online ceremony earlier today. More than a hundred people attended the virtual ceremony, including many Awards supporters from outside New Zealand.
Two Champion winners
The award for the Plain English Champion — Best Organisation went to Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand (CAB). Lead judge for the category Matt Huntington said he was particularly impressed by CAB’s understanding of how communicating clearly is key to their effectiveness.
‘And then they take it one extra step to acknowledge the importance of communicating with empathy and respect on top of that!’ Matt says. ‘The fact that they can do this successfully while relying on such a large and diverse group of volunteers is a testament to their grounding in plain language communications.’
Entries for the Awards opened up to Australia for the first time this year. And one of the Australian entries was awarded the Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team. Lauren Kelindeman, from law firm Legalite in Melbourne, was praised by judges for her exemplary work. Legalite was also a finalist in the Plain English Champion — Best Organisation category.
‘Lauren’s commitment to plain English shines bright in the amount of work she’s done and the quality of the advice she’s created,’ says judge Steph Prince.
In praise of clear documents and websites
The award for the Best Plain English Document in the private sector went to Ryman Healthcare for its myRyman Life eLearning tool. Health Navigator NZ took out the public sector award with its leaflet on treating type 2 diabetes, Empagliflozin.
The Best Plain English Website award for the public sector went to the Ministry of Social Development for the website www.youthservice.govt.nz. No entries made it to winner status in the private sector award for this category in 2021.
Rethinking a document or website to improve it
The Best Plain English Turnaround award went to Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency for its turnaround of The New Zealand code for cycling.
Legal, Annual Report, and Technical Communicator categories
Southern Cross Travel Insurance took out the Best Legal Document award for its Domestic Travel Insurance Policy Document.
National Trauma Network won Best Plain English Annual Report for its New Zealand Trauma Registry Annual Report 2019/20.
The Best Plain English Technical Communicator was the team at thinkstep-anz.
Spotlight on the humble sentence
Auckland City Council won the award for Best Plain English Sentence Transformation.
People’s Choice — the best ‘but no worst’
Several top-notch entries were submitted by members of the public for the People’s Choice — Best Plain English Communication category. Kiwibank won this award for its letter We’re improving our home loan documents.
One of the judges of this entry said, ‘Taking complex subject matter such as home loans and making it accessible is not easy. Kiwibank have done an excellent job in communicating this, and on a single A4 sheet! Bravo!’
And in what is thought to be a first for the Plain English Awards, no entries were received for the notorious People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain award. Lead judge for this category Simon Hertnon says he’d like to think that this is a good sign: ‘A sign that people are putting more thought into their communications. That the plain language message is getting through.’
Telling stories to inspire others
The theme of this year’s Awards was ‘Story!’ Awards founder and CE of plain language consultancy Write Limited Lynda Harris says:
‘The goal of sharing stories is to help people understand the “why” behind different plain language projects. That is, why a plain language approach was vitally important for that project, and how it helped its success.
‘By telling people’s stories, we want to shine a light on the impact of people’s efforts. And to give the public a glimpse behind the scenes of plain language as it plays out in the lives of individuals and organisations. Ultimately, we’d like people to be inspired to take similar approaches.’
Thanks to Awards sponsors
Sponsors play a key part in keeping the Plain English Awards going. Organisers would like to thank the following organisations for their support: WriteMark Limited, Write Limited, the Wright Family Foundation, Graphic Solutions, NZ Super Fund, Newsroom, Streamliners, TechCommNZ, Skillset, printing.com, MoneyHub, Consumer, Shelly Davies, Community Comms Collective, Editor Software (UK), Informed Investor magazine, Kendons, and Modica Group.
Find out more
See the full list of winners and finalists
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony, Communications, Media release
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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
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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
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony, 2021 Plain English Awards, Australian clear communication awards, Awards ceremony, Communications, Finalists, Judges, People's Choice awards, Plain English Awards
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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
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Finalists
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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
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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Breathe new life into your documents and make them worthy of the Turnaround Award | Photo by Bryn Parish on Unsplash
What does it take to win the Best Plain Language Turnaround category? What does a winning entry in this category look like?
More than an edit or redesign
A top submission in the Best Plain Language Turnaround category will be more than an edited version of an original document. It’ll be more than a website that has been redesigned. More than information that has been restructured to be more reader-focused. More than information that has been user-tested for its target audience.
Coming from a place of care
A winning entry in the Best Plain Language Turnaround category will include many of the above qualities and then some. Above all, it will clearly have come from a place of care. An individual or team will have looked at the communication and thought, ‘This information is important and the people it’s serving deserve our time to make the information better serve its purpose’. In other words, the writers will be caring for their readers.
What judges have said about previous winning entries
Have a read of what our judges have said about some of our past turnaround winners.
Winner 2018: Infinite Possibilities Limited
‘This is a damn clever turnaround. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.’
‘A remarkable change! You’ve taken a legal document and turned it on its head. It’s brilliantly unconventional, witty, exudes personality, and was a pleasure to read.’
‘The word choice is casual and direct with a very distinct tone. Some people will clearly consider it unbusiness-like and will not do business with this company. Others will find it refreshing and will move forward — exactly the intent to weed out those clients who find it offensive and to sign on those who find it refreshing.’
Winner 2017: Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management
‘This is a terrific turnaround from a dull, wordy website to one that is lively, engaging, and easy to navigate. This organisation has done a great job of using multimedia, and their restructuring of the content works really well.’
‘The scenario-based navigation on the home page is friendly, colourful, and relevant, and this flows well into the more text-heavy pages further down in the site. The scenarios capture the reader’s attention and the short videos are hilarious — a great way to get people involved in thinking through how to be ready for a disaster or emergency.’
‘The layout and formatting are much cleaner, with good use of white space and headings to focus the eye. The tips are helpful and the key messages are brought to the fore much more than in the original. Great work!’
Winner 2015: OSPRI
‘You’ve done a great job with this rewrite. It’s a vast improvement on the original. This is a usable and useful document, which does the job well. Nice work!
Find out more about the Best Plain Language Turnaround category
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Shine bright like a diamond — enter the champion category of the Awards in 2021 | Image by Dimitris Christou from Pixabay
You’ve read about the Champion category for Best Organisation. But, rather than an organisation, you have an individual (maybe it’s you?) or a team that deserves recognition for its plain language achievements.
The Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team award honours the people who work hard to make plain language a reality in their organisation. The award is open to individuals or teams who have significantly contributed to a plain language initiative in any New Zealand organisation.
Now is your time to shine, so don’t be shy!
We know that so much work goes into projects that support clear communication. Over the last year or so we’ve seen some amazing examples of this. These communications played a big part in us reinvigorating the Plain English Awards for 2021.
To the people behind New Zealand’s public health communications about COVID-19, we’re looking at you! And we know many other teams and individuals have done similarly inspiring work, whether in the public eye or known only to their colleagues or customers.
Here are some examples to get you thinking. You or your team might have:
- influenced senior leaders to support a plain language initiative
- led a plain language project, large or small
- run workshops or regular team meetings on using plain language
- formally or informally supported other writers to help them produce clear, reader-friendly communication more consistently
- written newsletter articles or intranet resources about plain language for your team or organisation
- rewritten template letters into plain language, saving time for your team
- created clear, easy-to-use policies or guidelines for your organisation.
Meet the winning entry in 2018
Here’s what the judges said about the impressive entry from the MSD Better Letters Project team in 2018.
This initiative is representative of the nitty gritty, down and dirty, battlefield for plain language. They are making appreciable change at scale. And making a difference in the lives of people in vulnerable circumstances. Very well done. The Better Letters Project at MSD is a worthy plain English champion!
Read more about the Better Letters entry
Meet finalist Andy Baldwin of WineWorks
The judges loved Andy’s passion as a champion of plain language in his organisation. Read how he did it.
I enlisted some help and formed a team. I began to study plain English and promote it within the organisation, presenting my ideas to managers and directors. Like any movement it took time to get momentum, but once we achieved ‘critical mass’ people began asking me to teach them how to write better. I think this is the biggest compliment of all. Now we have people throughout WineWorks writing and using great plain English SOPs in their daily work. This is improving our processes and helps to upskill our teams.
Read more about finalist WineWorks
Entries are open until 31 July
Read about how to enter
Read the requirements for the Plain English Champion — Best Individual and Team category
Discover whether you’re a contender for the Plain English Champion — Best Organisation category
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