Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Finalist: Best Plain English Turnaround 2017

Parliamentary Counsel Office

Document name

Contract and Commercial Law Act 2017

Judges’ comment

The effort and dedication in this entry are impressive, and it is a valuable contribution to the plain English legal movement.

Turning 12 Acts into one coherent one was a mammoth undertaking and demonstrates a real commitment to making the law accessible. The structure is very clear, far more so than most laws. The ‘overview’ section is particularly helpful, giving the reader a quick view of where to find what material. This document is a huge improvement and comes close to being a model of legislative drafting. We appreciated the effort to use gender-neutral language.

Media statement

I am delighted that the Parliamentary Counsel Office is a finalist in the 2017 WriteMark Plain English Awards for the Best Plain English Turnaround.

We are committed to making the legislation we write and publish as clear and simple as possible. This year we launched a new Plain Language Standard and Checklist to promote plain language in everything we write, from emails to legislation.

We have started to rewrite some of New Zealand’s older Acts by modernising and restructuring them without making any changes to the law. The new Contract and Commercial Law Act marks the start of this work.

Important law about contracts and commercial transactions affecting many New Zealanders was previously scattered across 12 elderly Acts — some dating back to 1908. Our mission was to bring the rules together in one place, to make them easier to find, use, and understand, and to provide clarity and certainty for the people and businesses who apply them.

The task of rewriting these Acts was challenging. We were pleased when a legal commentator described the new Act as a ‘greatest hits’ album — ‘a compilation of old tracks, digitally remastered for modern-day application’. Becoming a finalist gives us confidence that we are on the right track with our plain language and revision work.

Fiona Leonard
Chief Parliamentary Counsel