Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Winner: Best Plain English Document — Public Sector 2017


Document name

Making Sense of Evaluation — a handbook for the social sector

Judges’ comments

We had to admire the way this entry demonstrated how skilled writers can make dry topics engaging.

Evaluation in the social sector is not everyone’s idea of bedtime reading. Readers would still have to concentrate, but the writers used everyday language, reader-friendly structure, and even humour to make it accessible — and useful.

It’s hard to see how the writers could have helped the readers more.

Media statement

Evaluation is an area where jargon is rife, and it can also come across as overly technical. Our aim with the handbook was to break down the elements of evaluation, and to explain and illustrate the components in a way that anyone could follow. Our aim was not to make experts, but to help people understand the process of demonstrating the difference they make. We were determined to be clear about the language of evaluation (especially as it uses a lot of everyday words in slightly different ways), and so included a glossary in the handbook. Originally this was designed for the social sector, but we’ve had so much take-up from other people that we’ve re-labelled it ‘for everyone’.

Isabelle Collins, Superu’s evaluation expert and the lead author, came up with the penguin case study as a way to take readers through the thinking needed to do an evaluation. The success of this approach has been a revelation, and shows the impact of grounding theory in a real-life (and cute!) example.

We’re delighted to be the winners of this 2017 Plain English Award. ‘Making sense of evaluation’ was written and edited in-house, but has benefited from being reviewed by a number of evaluation practitioners and academics. Our design partners, Insight, contributed the illustrations and quirky layout. Throughout the development and publishing process, we were all focused on the importance of communicating clearly and appropriately, and our win reflects this.

Dr Malcolm Menzies
Chief Executive