Create a fine reading experience for your readers by transforming your sentences into plain language | Photo by Delightin Dee on Unsplash
Melissa Wardell shares her thoughts on the award for Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation. Melissa is one of the judges for the category in 2022.
Communication is all about words. Words on their own are limited in how much meaning they can convey to the audience. How do we bring them together to carry more complex thoughts and ideas? By writing sentences, of course!
When words are combined into a well-written sentence, they inform and influence the reader. Sentences provide a stage for words to shine. That’s why the award for Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation is so revealing. The best sentence transformations show us what is possible at an easily digestible level.
Offer poorly written sentences a second chance
Not all sentences achieve their intended goal at first. But even clunky sentences deserve a second chance!
The Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation category offers you the opportunity to take the ingredients of a complex or clumsy sentence and remix them into something beautiful. To create a fine reading experience from what was a flop.
Have a look at an example of how to transform a sentence here (video by sponsor Write Limited)
Shine the light on your transformed sentences
The Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation recognises the best plain language rewrite of an ‘unplain’ sentence by a New Zealand or Australian organisation. Entries are judged against internationally accepted principles of plain language.
The Best Sentences know how to impress the judges in this category. In 2021, one of the judges said:
The original statement shows how authorities sometimes, without meaning to, create a sense of ‘us and them’. The new version’s writer saw potential to relate to readers as their equals. The rewritten sentences are short and use many everyday words. They apply several plain English principles.
What you need to know
You can enter up to three separate sentence transformations for one entry fee.
Judges will consider each sentence separately, so you have up to three chances of winning in this category!
Enter the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation by 31 July
Meet 2021 winners Auckland Council
Meet the judges for the 2022 Plain Language Awards
Anne-Marie Chisnall July 25th, 2022
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation
Tags: Best Sentence, Best Sentence Transformation, clarity, clear communication, transformation
It's time for clarity! Tell your friends and colleagues that the Awards are open for entries | Photo of tūī by Mark Trufitt on Excio
It’s time for clarity! Entries are now open for this year’s Awards in all categories. As we’re sure you’ll agree, the Awards have a category for almost every type of business writing.
From macro to micro
Perhaps your plain language project has been running for a while and you’re now ready to enter the premier Plain Language Champion — Best Organisation category. Or you might be starting small by entering the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation.
From jargon-filled to easy-to-read
Have you turned a document or website from gobblydegook into something clear, concise, and jargon-free? Produced a shining example of anti-legalese that your clients love? Or dazzled your stakeholders with an awesome annual report that ticks all the reporting boxes?
Our judges are looking forward to seeing outstanding examples that defy the stereotypes of legal writing and business jargon.
From individual to team contributors
Technical communicators — get ready to send us your portfolios! Plain language project teams and individuals — prepare your submissions! We’re keen to celebrate your work whether it’s behind the scenes or front and centre in your organisation or sector.
From transformation to celebration
Another category the judges always love is the Best Plain Language Turnaround — especially if the turnaround was inspired by a Brainstrain nomination in previous years. And members of the public are welcome to nominate examples of the Best Communication or the Worst Brainstrain for the People’s Choice Awards.
You’ll find lots of inspiration in the statements from our 2021 winners and finalists. And plenty more on the gallery page where we showcase video stories of plain language initiatives.
Meet our 2021 winners and finalists
Get inspired by the stories in our gallery and share your own story
Entries are open until 31 July, so start planning your entry now. Once again we welcome entries from both New Zealand and Australian-based organisations.
Choose your categories for the 2022 Awards
Get involved with the People’s Choice Awards
Read about the benefits of sponsoring the Awards
Sign up to our newsletter for the latest news
Anne-Marie Chisnall May 12th, 2022
Posted In: 2022 Plain Language Awards, Communications, Story theme
Tags: Best Legal Document, Best Organisation, Best Plain Language Annual Report, Best Plain Language Document, Best Plain Language Legal Document, Best Plain Language Turnaround, Best Plain Language Website, Best Sentence Transformation, Best Technical Communicator, Brainstrain, jargon-busting, People's Choice, Plain Language Champion, transformation
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
Jonathan Tan October 5th, 2021
Posted In: 2021 Awards ceremony, Brainstrain
Tags: 2021 Plain English Awards, Brainstrain, clear communication, jargon-busting, People's Choice, transformation, Worst Brainstrain
Keep sharing your love of plain language with the world | Photo by Cristian Dina on Pexels
Now that entries for the 2021 Plain English Awards are closed, our judges are hard at work reviewing all the wonderful entries we received. But that doesn’t mean everything stops until we announce the finalists and then the winners. You can still spread the good word and share your love story for plain language.
Keep the conversation buzzing through our gallery
You can browse our video gallery to hear everyone’s stories about their love for plain language, the journey they went on for their entry, or about a project they’re working on.
Look through our video gallery and hear what others have to say
We’d love to hear your plain language love story — we’re keen to hear from all our local and international plain language companions!
Tell your plain language story in a video
Why not create your own video to share in our gallery? Sometimes the hardest part about making a video is where to begin. Believe me, it’s simpler than you think!
You don’t have to be Peter Jackson and direct the next fantasy epic (although that would be amazing). And we’re not looking for Down Under’s Next Top Video Maker.
You could talk to your phone and record a short video. Or you could create a slideshow or animation with either text or voice-over to tell your story. Or you might interview a colleague. We’ve got all sort of styles and formats in the gallery.
Here are some ideas for topics you might cover in your video.
- What does plain language mean to you?
- Why does plain language matter in your industry?
- How did your customers react when you used plain language in a document?
Check out our guidelines for creating your plain language story
Meet other plain language fans
You’re not alone in your love for plain language! Remember that you have friends all over the world who are passionate about plain language.
Our video gallery features stories from people all over the globe who appreciate all things plain and simple — and you can feature alongside them! So have fun and continue to spread the word about your plain language love story.
Find out who sponsors the Awards and loves plain language as much as you
Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on Awards news
Jonathan Tan August 12th, 2021
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Communications, Story theme
Tags: clarity, clear communication, improved writing, plain language culture, Plain language story, Story, transformation, video story
The very hungry caterpillar, by Eric Carle | Photo by eric-carl.com
I don’t know about you, but I first learnt how to write professionally in an academic setting — the more information you can feed into someone’s brain, the better the result. While we might love to gorge ourselves on a treasure trove of knowledge, too much information can wear us out. Our brains have to work even harder to digest what’s in front of us, and sometimes all the ‘smart’ words don’t even make sense.
The Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation is one of my favourite categories in the Plain Language Awards. You get to see great before-and-after examples of unplain, jargon-heavy text transformed into beautifully clear sentences. But an added bonus for entrants is being validated in having permission to write using plain language.
Trim the fat, keep the flavour
The easiest way to think about the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation category is through the lens of a classic childhood read. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (rest in peace) is a children’s picture-book that tells the story of a caterpillar who becomes a butterfly.
The caterpillar hatches from its egg, and begins to eat more and more each day. At one point, it has a ridiculous feast and becomes ill from overeating. Having learnt its lesson, the following week it takes on a lean diet with a large green leaf, before spinning a cocoon to chill out and emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The caterpillar represents all the words we want to write. We’ve hatched an idea and we want to spread our message. But we’ve got so many thoughts and ideas to add that we sometimes lose our direction. Our sentences become bloated and it’s exhausting to even look at our writing. What we’re left with is the Sunday evening special — what any food critic would describe as a hot mess.
And on another level, the caterpillar represents your audience — who you’re writing for. And the food it eats is all the words that you’re throwing at it. You wouldn’t take your vegetarian mates out to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian barbecue now, would you?
Five easy tricks for a word diet — thesauruses hate them!
So what’s the recipe for a great sentence? Here are five easy tricks to cook up a beautiful serving of alphabet soup.
- Keep sentences to an average of 15–20 words for print, or 12–15 words for online text.
- Use the active voice, rather than the passive voice.
- Ask a mate to read what you’ve written and see if it makes sense to them — bonus points if they’re your target audience.
- Be consistent in how you describe technical, complex terms.
- Write like a human and not like a robot.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And for me, a crisp and clear sentence is the apple of my eye — a work of art that I appreciate more than anything else. So bring out the red pen, bin the jargon, and show the world all the beautiful butterflies you’ve created.
Enter the Best Plain Language Sentence Transformation category
Jonathan Tan May 31st, 2021
Posted In: 2021 Plain English Awards, Best Plain English Sentence, Plain English Awards
Tags: 2021 Plain English Awards, Best Plain English Sentence, Best Sentence, plain English, Plain English Awards, transformation
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
Anne-Marie Chisnall August 29th, 2018
Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards
Tags: 2018 Plain English Awards, Best Plain English Sentence Transformation, clear communication, entry, recognition, sentence, transformation
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.
Lynda Harris August 24th, 2018
Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards
Tags: 2018 Plain English Awards, benchmark, Industry awards, plain language, recognition, transformation, Turnaround Award
Plain English Awards
Have you heard about the People’s Choice — Worst ‘Brainstrain’ Communication award? It’s the sibling of the People’s Choice — Best Communication award. Here are three things you need to know.
1. The Brainstrain award is the one award that organisations don’t really want to win. It reveals, in good humour, the document or website most notable for confusing and dumbfounding its target audience with obscurity and gobbledygook.
2. The ideal entry is a publicly available or widely used document or website that causes problems for many people.
3. By putting these confusing documents and web pages under the spotlight, we hope that the organisations responsible will rewrite them in beautifully plain English. And we’ve had some great turnaround stories prompted by this publicity.
So why not nominate a great or not-so-great document or website for one of the People’s Choice Awards.
Get involved with the People’s Choice Awards
Plain English Awards
Nicola Welby June 16th, 2017
Posted In: Communications
Tags: Brainstrain, consumers, gobbledygook, plain language, transformation