Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


Who’s the best and who’s the worst? Our panel of expert judges will make this year’s tough decisions. Image by Emily Morter. Unsplash licence.

Every year we’re honoured to enlist the support of plain language specialists from around New Zealand and the world to judge entries and nominations in our Awards. This year’s People’s Choice Awards are no different.

The exciting task of deciding who’s best

For our Best Communication category, we’re delighted to announce Deanna Lorianni, communications strategist from Virginia, USA, as panel chair. She’ll be joined by plain language specialists Emma Fossey in Scotland and Paula Shelton in Auckland. Together Deanna, Emma, and Paula will make the tough decision on which of your nominations is this year’s plain language superstar.

The difficult job of sorting bad from worse

For our Brainstrain category, we’re lucky enough to have the expert eye of two judges who’ve been part of this panel for several years: Simon Hertnon from Nakedize, who’ll be chairing the panel, and Sue Chetwin from Consumer — we’re excited to have them back! Simon and Sue will be joined by the equally valuable Paula van Gemen, plain language specialist from the Netherlands.

Read more about who’s on this year’s judging panels

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Do you know of a document that makes about as much sense as a bear doing aquayoga? Let us know! Image by Ryan Grewell. Unsplash licence.

It shouldn’t take more than one reading to decipher a passage of text.

How often do you ponder a passage of text that you just can’t untangle on one reading? Every day, I expect. Today’s special for me was an email from a software firm that included terms like ‘personalisation’, ‘confidentiality provision’, ‘ecosystem partners’, ‘beta participants’, ‘busywork’ — and more!

One or two of these terms I could manage and, to be fair, the writer was trying to summarise a larger document that was even more complex. But the two very long paragraphs in the email were jam-packed with similar terms. So the overall result was that the email missed its mark. The text was dense and difficult to decipher, so I didn’t really bother to try.

Tell us about giving up on gobbledygook

Gobbledygook hides the main messages. The reader has to struggle to understand. And that makes our busy lives even busier. If they give up, they’ve wasted their time. It’s not okay.

The People’s Choice Awards give you the chance to find examples of gobbledygook in everyday communications and dob them in. Nominate the worst communications you’ve found for the Brainstrain Award. You can nominate documents or webpages from government or business organisations.

We’d love to hear from you so we can help to stamp out gobbledygook. This is your chance to change the way New Zealand communicates!

Find out how to nominate here

Find out about the 2018 Brainstrain winner here

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What happens to the documents you've nominated once they're entered? Image by Lorie Shaull. Flickr licence.

Submitting your entry in this year’s People’s Choice Awards is one thing. What happens to your entry after that is another.

Your nomination joins the list so experts can decide who’s best and worst

After you submit a nomination, it joins a catalogue of other entries in our professional submission platform Submittable, where it’ll sit until entries officially close. Soon after that, the Awards administrators open up entries for the Best and Worst categories to their respective judging panels.

Our judges then sort through entries to come up with a shortlist, followed by a more in-depth assessment to create a list of finalists.
Finally, the judges decide which entries are our ultimate winners. This year’s winners will be announced on Thursday, 28 November.

The judges assess the entries using plain English criteria

Because our Awards are all about plain English, our judges use specific criteria to decide which entries are best and which are worst. These criteria are based on the following aspects of clear communication:

  • Purpose
  • Structure
  • Usability (for websites)
  • Headings and main messages
  • Paragraphs
  • Sentences
  • Words
  • Layout and presentation

Read more about our judging criteria
Find out how to nominate communications

Thanks to the Wellington band Fly My Pretties for being the inspiration for our blog title! Visit their website

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Consumer NZ wants the best for New Zealand communication. Image by Daria Nepriakhina. Unsplash licence.

The Plain English Awards and Consumer NZ have something very important in common — we both want what’s best for New Zealanders.

The Plain English Awards is a not-for-profit charity that aims to raise the bar for clear communication. We want everyday New Zealanders to understand what’s written for them.

Consumer NZ is a non-profit organisation dedicated to getting New Zealanders a fairer deal. So it’ll be no surprise that Consumer NZ is a long-term supporter of the Plain English Awards. In particular, Consumer NZ has supported our People’s Choice categories for many years.

Consumer’s Chief Executive, Sue Chetwin, has been a member of our judging panel for several years, focusing specifically on our People’s Choice categories. She’s returning again this year as one of the panel judging our Worst Brainstrain category.

We’re sure you’ll join us too by nominating the best and the worst communications you find in your daily life. All of us want New Zealanders to be able to make legal, financial, health, and all sorts of other decisions with ease.

Take a look at what Consumer NZ has to say about this year’s People’s Choice Awards

Find out how to nominate documents here

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