Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators


Breathe new life into your documents and make them worthy of the Turnaround Award | Photo by Bryn Parish on Unsplash

What does it take to win the Best Plain Language Turnaround category? What does a winning entry in this category look like?

More than an edit or redesign

A top submission in the Best Plain Language Turnaround category will be more than an edited version of an original document. It’ll be more than a website that has been redesigned. More than information that has been restructured to be more reader-focused. More than information that has been user-tested for its target audience.

Coming from a place of care

A winning entry in the Best Plain Language Turnaround category will include many of the above qualities and then some. Above all, it will clearly have come from a place of care. An individual or team will have looked at the communication and thought, ‘This information is important and the people it’s serving deserve our time to make the information better serve its purpose’. In other words, the writers will be caring for their readers.

What judges have said about previous winning entries

Have a read of what our judges have said about some of our past turnaround winners.

Winner 2018: Infinite Possibilities Limited

‘This is a damn clever turnaround. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.’

‘A remarkable change! You’ve taken a legal document and turned it on its head. It’s brilliantly unconventional, witty, exudes personality, and was a pleasure to read.’

‘The word choice is casual and direct with a very distinct tone. Some people will clearly consider it unbusiness-like and will not do business with this company. Others will find it refreshing and will move forward — exactly the intent to weed out those clients who find it offensive and to sign on those who find it refreshing.’

Winner 2017: Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management

‘This is a terrific turnaround from a dull, wordy website to one that is lively, engaging, and easy to navigate. This organisation has done a great job of using multimedia, and their restructuring of the content works really well.’

‘The scenario-based navigation on the home page is friendly, colourful, and relevant, and this flows well into the more text-heavy pages further down in the site. The scenarios capture the reader’s attention and the short videos are hilarious — a great way to get people involved in thinking through how to be ready for a disaster or emergency.’

‘The layout and formatting are much cleaner, with good use of white space and headings to focus the eye. The tips are helpful and the key messages are brought to the fore much more than in the original. Great work!’

Winner 2015: OSPRI

‘You’ve done a great job with this rewrite. It’s a vast improvement on the original. This is a usable and useful document, which does the job well. Nice work!

Find out more about the Best Plain Language Turnaround category

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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.

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards

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Learn tips from the experts on how to win. Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

On Friday, 4 May we’ll be celebrating entries opening for this year’s Awards with a free lunchtime seminar at Write Limited in Wellington.

Hear how to be a winner from the experts

We’ve gathered together a panel of experts to give you tips on how to submit a winning entry. You’ll get expert advice from past winners, judges, and supporters of the Awards, upping your chances of a successful entry.

During the seminar our panel will explain:

  • what judges look for in a winning entry
  • what’s involved in submitting an entry
  • what winning an Award means for an individual or organisation
  • why every entry plays an important part in helping everyday New Zealanders.

Book your tickets now

You’ll have plenty of time to ask questions. Bring your own lunch — we’ll supply coffee, tea, juice, and fruit.

Places are limited so book your tickets now. Entry by koha.

Posted In: 2018 Plain English Awards, Plain English Awards, Social good, Trophy Tips Seminar

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Information for new migrants needs to be as clear and user-friendly as possible. Image by Dmitri Ratushny. Unsplash licence.

You’ll all be familiar with the idea of the world becoming smaller as fast-paced communications connect even the remotest places on earth to the wider world. With the click of a button we can instantly be in touch with someone as far afield as Siberia in the far north and Antarctica in the far south. But does the amount of communicating we’re doing necessarily mean that we’re understanding each other?

What if I just speak a little louder?

I don’t have to dig too deep into my own experiences of travel outside New Zealand to know how difficult a language difference can make life. I even remember once falling into the dire trap of increasing my volume to try to get my message across. How was that ever going to work? Luckily for me (but not the poor person I was talking to), our topic of attempted conversation wasn’t too important.

So what must life be like for the many migrants who make their way to New Zealand each year and don’t speak English fluently? To put things in perspective, a quarter of New Zealand’s population was born overseas. And for many of these people, English is their second — or even third — language. Imagine what these statistics mean for an organisation like Immigration New Zealand (INZ), which needs to communicate ideas, many of them complex, through a variety of mediums every day.

What plain English means for migrants to New Zealand

At the end of November last year, supporters of the annual Plain English Awards celebrated its 2017 winners at a ceremony in Wellington. INZ was one of the Awards’ valuable sponsors, and representative Anne-Marie Masgoret gave a brief address during the ceremony. While no one in the audience needed any reminding of the importance and value of plain English, Anne-Marie’s words served as terrific reinforcement.

Image, Anne-Marie Masgoret, right, from sponsors Immigration New Zealand, with winners Anthony Frith and Bridget Cheesman

Anne-Marie Masgoret, right, from sponsors Immigration New Zealand, with winners Anthony Frith and Bridget Cheesman.

‘Moving to live and work in a new country involves finding out a great deal of information that locals simply take for granted,’ Anne-Marie explained.

Focusing on user-friendly information

INZ’s goal is to help migrants make New Zealand their home. They aim to support these people to fully participate in and contribute to all aspects of New Zealand life. And they do this by communicating clearly and simply through a variety of mediums.

INZ also relies on other organisations to deliver their message directly to migrants.

‘New Zealand organisations are very good at providing newcomers with information. However, the information provided is not always written in a user-friendly way,’ said Anne-Marie.

‘For those new to New Zealand, the quality of information migrants receive as they settle into their new life here can make all the difference in the way they settle into this country and make it their home. It can also make a difference to whether a newcomer acts on information or just ignores it.’

Keeping it clear for those new to New Zealand

To support organisations to write clear communications, INZ created the Keeping It Clear resource. This aims to help organisations create or rewrite information in a short, simple, and easy-to-understand format.

Check out INZ’s Keeping it Clear resource

Find out about the winners of the 2017 Plain English Awards

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Immigration New Zealand is supporting clear communications for new and not-so-new New Zealanders by sponsoring the Best Plain English Turnaround Award in 2017.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) understands how important it is to use plain English. INZ helps migrants to get established in New Zealand. By providing newcomers with clear information and services, we can help them to successfully settle and contribute to our communities.

Immigration New Zealand is keen to encourage the use of plain English as a common practice in our country.


Judi Altinkaya, National Manager, Migrant Settlement explains:

With more than a quarter of New Zealand’s population born abroad, not everyone understands English well. It’s important for people whose jobs involve communications to keep this in mind.

For migrants new to New Zealand, the quality of information they receive as they settle into their new lives here can make all the difference. The more that New Zealand organisations deliver that information effectively, in plain English, the more we can facilitate a smoother settlement process for newcomers.

Immigration New Zealand is keeping it clear

In August 2016, INZ launched Keeping it Clear. This online resource is designed to help organisations present their information more clearly so that it is easily understood by the growing proportion of new migrants in New Zealand.

We think the aim of these resources and the aim of the Plain English Awards are a natural fit!

What’s the Turnaround Award all about?

The Best Plain English Turnaround Award recognises the best rewrite of a document or website that was originally difficult to understand but has been significantly improved by adopting a plain English approach.

The Best Plain English Turnaround Award is open to all forms of communication, whether online, in print, or video.

Entries close on 31 August, with the awards to be announced on at the Awards ceremony on 23 November at the Royal Society of New Zealand’s premises in Wellington.

Thanks, Immigration New Zealand

We couldn’t do it without you!

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