Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Winner: Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team

Better Letters Project,
Ministry of Social Development

Louise Beaumont from MSD's Better Letters Project gives her acceptance speech. Photo by Rebecca McMillan.

Judges’ comments

I’m very impressed with this submission. This initiative is representative of the nitty gritty, down and dirty, battlefield for plain language. They are making appreciable change at scale. And making a difference in the lives of people in vulnerable circumstances. For the plain English geek in me it’s humbling. Very well done. The Better Letters Project at MSD is a worthy plain English champion!

Keep going and spread the word! Imagine what New Zealand’s public service might look like if every government department took this approach?

Media statement

Having our work acknowledged by people who recognise and care about plain English feels great. It not only reminds us we’re on the right track, it reinforces how writing clearly and simply can make a difference in people’s lives.

Through our Better Letters project we’re bringing warmth and simplicity to our communications at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). We send out close to six million letters a year to 1.5 million people. Our letters go to people from all walks of life. They’ve come to us for help; they’re often stressed and struggling to cope. Many have poor literacy or a limited understanding of English. Each letter we send is a chance to show we care, to help make someone’s life a bit easier, their day less stressful. Even if it’s not good news, we can still write with compassion, offer options and hope.

It’s about mana manaaki — making people’s contact with MSD a more positive experience. Our words back up our actions. We’re supporting people, whānau and communities through warmth, understanding, respect, openness and fairness.

The Better Letters Project
Ministry of Social Development