Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Finalist: Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team 2021

Gretchen Rasch, Cawthron Institute

Judges’ comments

Steph Prince
It’s clear that Gretchen is enthusiastic about plain English and understands the benefits for her organisation and their readers. She deserves recognition for her effort in analysing the writing quality at the Cawthron Institute, and creating good training materials to improve it. This shows true passion and dedication, and a strong determination to make a positive change for everyone.

Rosie ter Beek
Gretchen’s efforts to inject plain language into scientific writing are to be applauded. She is fighting against engrained writing attitudes, including in her company, which is courageous. By analysing their writing, she is able to convince the scientists ‘in their language’.

Gretchen’s training courses are a great initiative in changing the culture in her company. By helping her colleagues draft their articles in a clear way, Gretchen is bringing about long-term change that will hopefully inspire other scientific writers.

Media statement

As editor for the Cawthron Institute, I’m delighted that we have being recognised for our efforts to introduce plain English into scientific writing. In these days of climate change and pandemics, it’s so important that scientists communicate in language that speaks to every reader.

Cawthron has 300 staff researching ways to protect the environment and develop sustainable primary industry, and while our scientists speak eloquently about their work, in their writing they often struggle to overcome ingrained habits. The research community as a whole still clings to the writing style taught to budding scientists for decades — a style that thinks jargon and a dense vocabulary make a person ‘sound scientific’.

I like to think that my editing work and mentoring have given our staff both the confidence and the skills to write more plainly in our client reports. We still include plenty of data, but now we use them to tell a story. The positive feedback we’ve had from clients suggests we’re on the right track, but there is plenty of road ahead!

Gretchen Rasch
Science Editor
Cawthron Institute