Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Winner: Plain English Champion — Best Organisation 2021

Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand

Violet Chong and Sacha Green from Citizens Advice Bureau receive giant winner's cheque from sponsor Write Limited's Deputy Chief Executive Anne-Marie Chisnall | Photo Write Limited (2021)

Judges’ comments

David Boyle
Across the board CAB has demonstrated a love of Plain English. Their audience is wide a varied across the whole of NZ. So, their approach to delivering complicated information in a way that anyone can use is incredibly important. They do this without exception across all of their material.

The buy in from staff and they way they have embraced plain English is significant especially given they reply on a lot of volunteer support.

This is the most complete example of Plain English that I have seen. I can’t speak highly enough of their work and the way they provide their information to all that use CAB. Even the financial section in the annual report was easy to read!!

Matt Huntington
CAB staff members probably wouldn’t say ‘plain language is how we do things here’ because plain language is so central to their mission. It would likely be taken for granted that plain language is how they do things. That, to me, is the sign of a plain English CHAMPION.

I am particularly impressed by CAB’s understanding of how communicating clearly — whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, using web chat, through email and other written communication or via their website — is key to their effectiveness. And then they take it one extra step to acknowledge the importance of communicating with empathy and respect on top of that! The fact that they can do this successfully while relying on such a large and diverse group of volunteers is a testament to their grounding in plain language communications.

During the COVID-19 lockdown CAB were forced to shift their primary mode of contact from a face-to-face service to a service delivered by email, phone, live chat and their website. This necessary shift away from face-to-face made clear communications more important than ever.

Sarah Stacy-Baynes
I noticed half-way through reading all the documents provided by CAB that I hadn’t needed to re-read any of their information. That was a clear indication to me that the content was written in plain language and was well structured so I could follow it easily. CAB used clear infographics throughout their website, very plain and inclusive language and used a respectful tone when speaking directly to their audience. These are all indications that they understand plain English standards and how to apply them.

Being pretty close to retirement, and thinking about how I can give back to my community, I found myself really seriously considering becoming a volunteer. That’s a very honest response to their documents and I think their writers did an incredible job of explaining what they did and how much they achieve.

Media statement

Citizens Advice Bureau is all about communicating in plain language. We aim to provide people with information about their rights and responsibilities that is clear, relevant, and accurate. We are a service for everyone, about everything. This means we think about the diverse needs of people in Aotearoa New Zealand and try to communicate in plain language that people can understand. This approach is at the heart of our service.

Communicating with people about their rights often involves translating complex issues and ‘legal-speak’ into language that is simple and to-the-point. This is an essential part of what we do.

We believe our plain language service improves people’s wellbeing and helps people to find a way forward when they might otherwise be stuck. Through our plain language communication, we support people to make decisions, solve problems and get good outcomes.

We are absolutely delighted to be acknowledged in this year’s Plain English Awards as a Plain English Champion.

Sacha Green
National Advisor — Legal & Strategic
Citizens Advice Bureau New Zealand

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