Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Finalist: Best Plain English Sentence Transformation 2017

Steph Prince, NZ Transport Agency

Document name

FAQs: ACC levy refunds for 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 periods

Intended audience

Mainly our contact centre staff. This is for when they’re talking to customers who’ve relicensed their vehicles recently, have been charged the incorrect ACC levy fee and have received a refund cheque in the mail.

Original sentence

Where it has been identified and is possible to update this it has been undertaken ensuring future band allocation is correct.
[22 words]

Rewritten sentence

Where possible, we’ve identified and updated affected sub-models to make sure they’re assigned the correct levy band going forward.
[19 words]

Judges’ comments

This is a standard phone statement for staff to explain an overcharging error to those who’ve received a refund. Phone statements to the public desperately need to be in human language, not robot jargon, so that staff don’t have to translate while talking. Not having this can greatly affect brand perception in the public eye.

The original sentence was almost impossible to understand and gave no reassurance that the problem was resolved. It held multiple ideas, which went in circles and obscured the message. IF the issue is identified AND it can be updated AND the band allocation is correct, you won’t be pinged again.

The rewrite manages to capture it all as one idea. It uses a friendly, active voice and the clarity and use of words is great! It makes it so much better and leads the caller to the easy conclusion that they will not, in fact, be pinged again.

It also has a lovely use of contractions (we’ve, not we have; they’re, not they are). But it could go further by having ‘in future’ instead of ‘going forward’, and clarifying the internal jargon ‘sub-models’.

This rewrite shows how little changes can make a big difference. Well done!

Media statement

Plain English at the NZ Transport Agency is all about helping our customers make great transport choices, and keeping everyone safe on our roads.

We recognise that even the smallest sentence can make all the difference between a customer understanding what they need to do, or not.

In my role as a Publishing Advisor, I go the extra mile to make every sentence count. I’m really happy to have my efforts recognised as a finalist in the Best Plain English Sentence Transformation category for this year’s Awards.

Steph Prince
Publishing Advisor