The Plain Language Bill was drawn from the parliamentary biscuit tin on 23 September 2021
We were thrilled to welcome Nelson MP Rachel Boyack as guest speaker at the Plain English Awards ceremony on 14 October 2021. Her speech is below and it’s a great read! Rachel speaks from the heart about her enthusiasm for clear communication and its benefits for New Zealanders. She especially encourages supporters of plain language to support the new Plain Language Bill as it progresses through Parliament.
Welcome by Awards MC James Elliott
Now it’s my pleasure to welcome our guest speaker for the Awards. This is Nelson MP Rachel Boyack. As we said earlier, Rachel’s private member’s bill, the Plain Language Bill, was recently drawn in the parliamentary ballot. So it’s very fitting that Rachel joins us today to be our guest speaker. And with the potential for the Plain Language Bill to become law, New Zealand could join the countries around the world that have a legislative basis for plain language in their government agencies and public communications documents. Thank you for joining us, and welcome Rachel.
Rachel Boyack’s speech
View the video of Rachel’s speech at the Plain English Awards ceremony
Rachel Boyack MP: Champion of plain language
Tēnā koutou katoa. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou
It is an honour to join you today and to have the opportunity to speak to you about my private member’s bill, the Plain Language Bill. My thanks to the team who have worked so hard to put on these Awards today during a pandemic. It’s no easy feat.
Congratulations to all of the nominees, finalists, and award winners celebrated today. Thank you for your commitment to plain language and your willingness to put yourselves forward for judging. While it is always risky singling out one organisation for praise, as the MP for Nelson, I am pleased to see Cawthron on the list of finalists today. I’m proud to be a trustee of Cawthron, and I acknowledge their commitment to good science communication. The last two years are a stark reminder of why good science communication is so important.
It is somewhat nerve-wracking to be speaking to a group of communications experts about a Plain Language Bill. Since my bill was drawn from the parliamentary biscuit tin, I had been very mindful that all of my communications must be crystal clear. I would like to acknowledge my colleague, Chris Hipkins, who was the original drafter of the Plain Language Bill almost 10 years ago.
As a new MP, I was asked to take on this bill. And there was a reason that I was delighted to do so. Fifteen years ago, I was a fresh young graduate starting my professional career in a small public sector agency in Wellington called the Leadership Development Centre. I was given a role in communications despite having no formal training in this type of work.
My boss, who was a pedant, sent me on a number of plain English courses with Write Limited. The training from Write set me up in my professional career, and has helped me to ensure that the documents and statements I produce are clear and easily understood. The first thing I did after having my bill drawn was to ask my assistant to ring Write and set up a meeting.
I am keen to work with the sector and all of you, the plain language champions across Aotearoa, as my bill progresses. The purpose of my bill is to require public sector agencies to write their documents and their website content using plain language. Agencies will have a plain language champion who will be responsible for training staff and reporting to the Public Service Commission about plain language use in their agency. Members of the public will be able to raise concerns about documents with the plain language champions.
Plain language is a democratic right. My goal is for more people to have good communication from government agencies so that we can all participate fully in our democracy. I would love your help turning this bill into law. As the bill progresses through Parliament, I am keen to hear from the sector about how we can make the law work better. This is also an opportunity for us to speak out about the benefits of plain language in the public and private sector. So let’s use it.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak to you today. Congratulations to the award winners.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa
Meet the Awards winners for 2021
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Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony
champions, clear writing, Plain English Awards, plain language, Plain Language Bill
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
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
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Awards brand, Best Individual or Team, Communications, Plain English Awards, Plain English Champion
2021 Plain English Awards, Champion, champions, clear communication, plain English, Plain English Awards, plain language
We were lucky enough to have five judges make last year's Awards ceremony. From left are Simon Hertnon, Kylie McGrath, Rachael Fogarty, Rachel McApline, and Maryland Spencer. Image by A Beautiful Photo
Meet our incredible line-up of plain English experts — from around New Zealand and the world — who’ll be judging entries in this year’s Awards. We’re proud to have such a wonderful pool of experts, and honoured that they’ve all offered their time to help us decide on our finalists and winners. We’re also grateful for the feedback they’ll give to all shortlisted entrants.
Judges for the 2018 Plain English Awards
Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Communications, Judges, People's Choice awards, Plain English Awards
2018 Plain English Awards, champions, clear communication, People's Choice, Plain English Awards
Calling all champions — it's time to enter the Plain English Awards (Image by Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0))
You definitely don’t want to miss out! Now’s the time to enter the 2017 Plain English Awards. Because who wouldn’t want to be in the running at these prestigious awards?
There’s no need to be shy about entering. Are you worried your content might not be plain enough? That’s a very good sign, because it shows that you care enough to be concerned. You care enough to want to do the best for your reader. You care about clear communication. It shows that you’re a perfectionist — and perfectionists like you are the closet champions we’re looking for.
If you truly care, enter your own or somebody else’s content in this year’s Plain English Awards. The Awards honour those who write plain English.
10 facts about New Zealand’s Plain English Awards
- Entries close in 3 weeks, on 31 August 2017.
- Most people don’t think they are good enough to enter — so seize the advantage!
- No entry has ever been perfect — perfection is not possible.
- The judges are impressed by effort, and delighted by every clear document.
- The only documents publicly criticised are those in the Brainstrain Award.
- You can enter a document, a website — or just a single sentence.
- You can enter other people’s work in the People’s Choice category.
- The premier prize is worth $5,000.
- The Awards have been running for 12 years.
- The awards are a not-for-profit event hosted by the WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust.
Enter the Awards here
Posted In: Communications
champions, plain English, Plain English Awards