The amusingly named Brainstrain Award has a serious purpose: to effect change for good | Photo by Canstock
Here’s your chance to dob in a bad document and inspire better with the Brainstrain option of the People’s Choice Award!
When we’re forced to wrestle with a hard-to-read document, we grumble quietly or even complain loudly. It could be a form we need to complete, a contract or financial agreement we have to sign, or other vital information we need. If they’re not clearly written or presented, all can inspire a range of negative reactions!
Inaccessible information has serious effects
We often joke about dense, unhelpful, or poorly worded documents. We label them gobbledygook or jargon and then forget about them. But for many people, inaccessible information has more serious consequences. Barriers to understanding create disadvantage, mistakes, and stress. Lives are affected and the cost can be high.
So here’s your chance to put a spotlight on a bad document and prevent more harm. Nominate it for the 2022 People’s Choice Brainstrain Award! This award goes to the document or webpage most notable for confusing or disadvantaging its target audience. Judges take into account the number of people likely to be affected and the degree of frustration or harm caused. Any member of the public can make a nomination.
Do your bit to create a fairer and more respectful society
Although the ‘prize’ is given in good humour at the ceremony, the award has a very serious purpose — to prompt change and create a fairer and more respectful society. Many winners have accepted the feedback graciously and gone on to rewrite the offending text. Thousands of people have been positively affected by those rewrites, so here’s a chance to play your part.
Take action now and be a catalyst for change. (Nominations are kept confidential — your name and details are not made available to the perpetrator!)
Nominate a Brainstrain
Find out more about the People’s Choice Awards
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, People's Choice awards
Best communication, Brainstrain, gobbledygook, People's Choice, Plain Language Awards, Worst Brainstrain
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
2021 Plain English Awards, Best communication, Best Plain English Communication, Brainstrain, champions, clear communication, People's Choice, plain English, Plain English Awards, plain language, recognition, writing for the public
Media release: 7 May 2021
After holding off entries last year, the full Plain English Awards are back in 2021. The Awards will look a little different this year, with a virtual ceremony and some new ways for entrants to share their inspiring work in clear communication.
Fresh Awards with a new theme
This year’s theme for the Awards is Story. We’re inviting the public to share the stories behind their plain language projects in short videos. We’ll showcase these videos in a gallery to inspire and enlighten the wider public. The video gallery is open now.
‘A major goal for the Awards has always been to bring plain language into common use,’ says chair of the WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust, Gregory Fortuin. ‘We know that stories raise awareness and inspire action. The more visible the stories of our entrants, the more sparks of possibility and innovation will be lit.’
All the familiar categories are back
This year’s Awards will feature all categories, including the two People’s Choice categories for Best Communication and the infamous Brainstrain.
‘As we’ve seen in the events of 2020 and beyond, clear communication makes a real difference in people’s lives,’ Gregory says. ‘Here’s a chance to celebrate all the great work that people having been doing over the past couple of years.’
Important dates for the 2021 Awards
- 1 June: Entries open
- 31 July: Entries close
- 30 September: Finalists announced
- 14 October: Winners announced
Big thanks to our media partner, Newsroom
The goodwill and support of our sponsorship partners keeps the Plain English Awards ticking. We’re immensely grateful to New Zealand-based news and current affairs site, Newsroom.co.nz for believing in our cause and being our media partner.
Get more information
Jonathan Tan, project manager, 2021 Plain English Awards | email@example.com
Gregory Fortuin, Chair, WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust | 021 465 254
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Media release, Plain English Awards, Story theme
2021 Plain English Awards, Best communication, Best Plain English Communication, Brainstrain, clear communication, People's Choice, plain English, Plain English Awards, plain language, recognition, writing for the public