Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


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 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,, 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

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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

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The Champion Best Organisation leads the way for clear communication | Photo by Joshua Golde on Unsplash

We asked Lynda Harris, Awards founder and CE of our principal sponsor Write, why she’s so excited about the Champion categories in the Plain English Awards.

First of all, what do we mean when we talk about an organisation being a plain language champion?

The Plain English Champion category is my absolute favourite! The title implies two strong, equally important concepts connected with the word ‘champion’. Most obviously it means being ‘the winner’ — the best, the highest achiever, the standard-setter, the model for others to follow. And we applaud that!

But also embodied in the title of this category is the concept of being an advocate — being a champion for a cause.  Plain language champions believe in the power of clarity and are proud to share their ideals with the world.

What are some of the characteristics that set a champion organisation apart?

An organisation that wins the Plain English Champion category has some stand-out features that truly do set it apart. A champion organisation has shown evidence of a deliberate, focused, consistent choice across the whole organisation to use plain language. This means they make their expectations clear from the top.

The chief executive and senior leaders of a champion organisation talk about the ‘why’ of plain language. They and their management teams encourage and support others to adopt a clear style of communicating throughout the organisation. They promote the connection between clarity and their organisation’s values. (How often have you seen a company say they’re customer-focused, and then tried to work your way through a difficult form or a jumbled website?)

Champion organisations celebrate the benefits of clear communication — things like greater job satisfaction and improved workplace culture, or better customer retention and a stronger reputation for their business.

What do you think the judges will be looking for in the winning portfolio?

Evidence is key to a winning portfolio! The judges will be looking for evidence of a wholehearted commitment to making plain language the norm across the whole organisation. That sounds easy but means a lot.

In a plain language organisation, you’ll find evidence that the CEO and senior team have drawn a line in the sand and set a strong expectation that:

  • the reader rules! Everyone considers their reader in every communication, both internal and external
  • staff learn what good looks like — everyone writes to an agreed plain language standard
  • senior people show the way — the CEO and all managers set an example and model plain language
  • staff have help — they can easily find helpful resources and champions who can help
  • new documents are clear and reader-friendly
  • feedback and measurable results support the change to plain language.

What this evidence all adds up to is that plain language is woven into the fabric of the organisation.

Why does Write sponsor this category?

You can see that everything about this category is dear to Write’s heart. Our mission is to help organisations and individuals get more value from their daily investment in business communication. When we fulfil our mission, we help build a fairer, more respectful society.

We see the Plain English Awards as another way we can promote the benefits of clear communication. And the Champion category is the one that allows us to celebrate other organisations that are on a similar path to us.

Read about the purpose of the Plain English Awards

Preparing your Champion entry

Read about the criteria and prizes for the Champion categories

Read about other clues that your organisation is a champion of clear communication

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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, for believing in our cause and being our media partner.



Get more information

Jonathan Tan, project manager, 2021 Plain English Awards |


Gregory Fortuin, Chair, WriteMark Plain English Awards Trust | 021 465 254

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Great news! The Plain English Awards are back for 2021. Photo by Natalia Łyczko on Unsplash

Here’s the news we know lots of you have been waiting for — the Plain English Awards are back for 2021! They’ll look a little different this year, with a virtual ceremony and some new ways to share your inspiring work in clear communication.

Fresh Awards with a new theme

This year’s Awards will have the theme of Story. We’ll be inviting all entrants to share the stories behind their plain language projects in short videos. We’ll showcase your stories on the Awards website so that others can be inspired and enlightened by your work.

As Awards patron Chloe Wright puts it:

We need to be innovative and adapt to the current circumstances. I’m right behind the idea of sharing stories and as a storyteller myself, I will love reading of these experiences.

The Awards aim to bring plain language into common use and raise awareness in the community. So we hope the stories you share will show others the what, why, and how of your projects. You’ll get the opportunity to share what excites you about plain language, and the impact your work has had on the world.

Watch for more guidance soon on our Story theme.

All the familiar categories are back

We’ll have all categories available in 2021, including the two People’s Choice categories for Best Communication and the infamous Brainstrain.

Entries will open soon. Meanwhile put your thinking caps on and start creating the stories behind your potential entries.

Read about the 3-step process for entering the 2021 Awards

Take a note of these key dates

Here are the key dates we’ve planned so far for the 2021 Awards.

  • Mid-April: Video story submissions open
  • 1 June: Entries open
  • 2 August: Entries close
  • 16 September: Finalists announced
  • 14 October: Winners announced

Let’s keep in touch

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest news

And if you’re interested in sponsoring the 2021 Awards, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Melissa to find out about sponsor benefits at

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Taking a fresh approach to legal writing with the Best Plain English Legal Document

Legal documents are changing. Once densely written, peppered with Latin, and strictly formatted, today’s legal documents are much more reader-friendly.

We’re all readers of legal documents. And we all appreciate clearly written documents that state the necessary information without resorting to legalese. Preferably, we want to be able to read the document and understand it easily.  This means we can discuss the content with our legal advisor or a colleague, without having to rely on someone else to explain it first.

A fresh approach to legal

When we’re signing a contract, entering an agreement, or deciding who we’ll leave our worldly goods to, legal documents in plain English make each party’s obligations clear.

The Best Plain English Legal Document award recognises this fresh approach to legal documents. The judges will be looking for examples of legal writing that consider the reader’s needs rather than the writer’s. These are the documents that clearly and succinctly explain, streamline, and structure legal content that could otherwise be confusing to a non-legally-trained person.

Here’s what the judges praised in last year’s winner and finalist entries.

About the Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017 (Parliamentary Counsel Office)

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.

About the Property Sharing Agreement (Cavell Leitch)

Cavell Leitch has shown a commitment to improving the clarity of a consumer-focused contract. Significant steps have been taken to improve the language.

The judges are looking forward to seeing what this year’s entries will bring.

Enter your fresh legal document here

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Put your compelling annual report into the limelight

Have you joined the wave of change? Does your annual report tick off all the statutory stipulations and hum with life? Does it tell a compelling story of what matters to you and your stakeholders? Is it clear and concise?

If you’re twitching with pride right now, jump up and give your report the razzle dazzle it deserves.

Enter this year’s Plain English Awards and your report can leap into the limelight and take a bow. Entries close at midnight on Monday, 3 September 2018.

Fabulous feedback is waiting in the wings

Imagine you and your report basking in this kind of feedback. Here’s what the judges had to say about last year’s winners:

Overall, this is a great example of how you can appease regulatory requirements and appeal to a general reader — a true plain English experience with the audience in mind. Well done!

Great use of visual storytelling and pared-down messaging. The colours are vibrant and engaging.

This report has very little jargon, which is always great to see. The vocabulary is straightforward and clear.

More than just compliance

Gone are the days of an impenetrable collection of numbers and words, prepared for compliance purposes. Shareholders and stakeholders have switched their attention to companies with timely and relevant information shared in a compelling way.

Is this you? If it is, enter this year’s awards today — you need the fabulous feedback, and the world needs excellent examples.

Here’s what winners Z Energy said last year:

We knew making the report highly readable would help readers connect with what Z has achieved and its vision for the future.

A winning report is clear, easy to read, timely, and relevant

Judges will focus on the body of the report and will be checking that:

  • all readers (not just the financial wizards) will find it easy to read and use
  • readers can use the report to make useful decisions and comparisons.

What makes a clear annual report?

If your report has these elements, the judges will give it the thumbs up.

  • Main messages that are clear and obvious
  • Clear, concise and jargon free
  • Technical terms explained
  • Figures presented in an easy-to-understand format
  • Graphs, tables and photos that support main messages.

Enter your report for the 2018 Plain English Awards.

Meet last year’s winners


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It only takes a sentence to enter the Awards! Get transforming, using these simple steps. | Photo by Julie North on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter an awards competition? The award for Best Plain English Sentence Transformation makes entering the Plain English Awards as simple as 1 – 2 – 3!

1. First, catch your sentence

Complex, long-winded sentences abound in official publications, on business websites, and around the office.

To find a suitable sentence, first of all, track down something that’s really long with multiple clauses, that maybe even includes more than one main idea, and also uses unnecessary, surplus words and phrases and convoluted language, which nevertheless might be regarded by some as adding a certain element of essential formality. See what we did there?

2. Rewrite your sentence in plain English

Rewrite your sentence in plain English so that it becomes simple and beautifully crafted. Keep your sentence short. If needed, you can use more than one sentence to express the ideas of your original text.

3. Enter your sentence in the award for Best Plain English Sentence Transformation

Enter your original and rewrite in the category that gives well-written sentences the attention they deserve. You can enter up to three sentence transformations in one entry. And feel free to enter more than once!

Enter the Best Plain English Sentence Transformation award

Meet a previous Best Sentence winner

Meet a Best Sentence finalist

Meet another Best Sentence finalist

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So often we hear stories about the people behind a plain English initiative in an organisation. To make sure these people get their own time to shine, we’ve got a Champion award — for the Best Individual or Team.

These sometimes unsung heroes are those who’ve worked hard to make plain English a reality in their organisation.

Are you a plain English hero in your organisation? Here are a few signs that you need to enter for Best Individual or Team — of course, we know you’ll be able to think of many more!

You’ve talked to your leaders about the need for a plain English project

You’re the one who went to the management or board meeting and talked about all the good reasons for starting a plain English project (large or small).

Or maybe your team got the project started, and took proof of the benefits to management to advocate for wider adoption of plain English throughout the organisation.

If you’re a plain English leader, we recommend you enter and get industry-wide recognition.

You’ve trained your colleagues in plain English

Not content to be the only plain English writer in your team or business, you’ve created a programme of training. You’re spreading the word about the advantages of plain English and giving your colleagues tools and techniques to help them write more clearly.

Perhaps you make sure you include a slot at team meetings on plain English tips — and that slot has become the highlight of the meetings.

Or are you the go-to person or team that is consulted before a major report goes out or content is loaded on the website?

If you’ve become indispensable as guide or mentor for people who want to write clearly, it’s time to get that entry in.

You’ve produced resources to support clear writing

You’ve compiled all you know into a resource for your organisation — a writing how-to, or brand guidance on clear writing. You’ve created intranet resources and newsletter articles to help build a culture of clear communication.

Or perhaps you decided those terrible templates had to go. You’ve restructured, rewritten, and rebuilt templates to make standard communications easier to produce — and easier for the target audience to receive and understand.

Sometimes this background work needs to be brought to the fore — enter the Champion category and let your light shine!

Read about last year’s winner

Find out if your organisation is a contender for the Best Organisation category

Enter the Awards

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Ever had that 'feel good' feeling from transforming a piece of text into really clear, readable content?

It’s 10am on a workday morning and a bunch of us are, accidentally and animatedly, tweaking some text on a neglected webpage we administer. ‘Too long!’ ‘It’s so long-winded.’ ‘Uggh, it sounds stodgy and dull’. ‘Look at that next sentence – why, just why?’

We’d intended to check on only a small detail but quickly ended up editing with a passion. Honestly, we didn’t mean to! But, oh, the satisfaction at the glorious transformation. It felt good. Very, very good! The world was now a better place. Instructions were clear. Readers would breeze through it. Job done!

If you too get a happy burst of dopamine from turning around bad writing, you’ll totally get this and probably be nodding in agreement. And if you’ve been on top of the world after some of your own transformations, you’d better share! Enter them in the Turnaround category of the annual Plain English Awards

We’ll be cheering you on, every step of the way!

The Turnaround award recognises the best plain English rewrite of a document or website that was originally difficult to read.

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