Plain Language Awards

Celebrate the stories of our clearest business communicators

Finalist: People’s Choice — Worst Brainstrain Communication 2022

Internal Affairs | Births, Deaths and Marriages

Document name

Application to register a name change webpage and form

What the member of the public who nominated this entry said

The overall impact this form and website causes major brainstrain. It causes frustration and confusion for the individual. For an official government webpage and form, it is extremely misleading and not clear at all. Not only do citizens of New Zealand find this process overly frustrating, but new residents of New Zealand would no doubt find this confusing and frustrating too. Especially if they are new to the country and not familiar with government processes.

The nominator then explained more about what they encountered when using the website and application form.

What the judges said

Applying for a name change is an arduous task! It isn’t a straightforward one-off application and the work gets done for you. Unfortunately, you have to do several things, including updating driver licences, passports, birth certificates (if required), NHI numbers, and more.

This communication gives the reader a starting point.

While the communication structure, presentation and wording appear okay to start with, once you drill down into the nitty gritty, some misleading content appears, as the submitter has said. And the information is not upfront about the fees, time delays, alerts, and so on.

It appears they have tried to simplify the document and website, but in doing so have made the information harder to understand, with key information difficult to find, understand or at times misleading.

The content assumes a high reading level for the person filling out the form. This can disadvantage the reader especially if they have low literacy and cannot understand the technical language used. It is difficult to understand and, at times, it’s unclear why information is being asked for.

The document is overly complex.

Media statement

Connecting with New Zealanders is a big part of our mahi here at Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs.

Using plain language to connect with our wide range of diverse customers is hugely important. We take it very seriously — but we don’t always get it right.

We’re taking this Brainstrain nomination on the nose. We accept the wero (challenge) in making the name change form easier to understand and use – for all our customers. While this form was on our radar, the nomination reinforced the importance of getting it right.

We’re trying hard to make things easier for our customers. It’s why we received Cabinet approval and funding to make substantial improvements through our Te Ara Manaaki transformation programme.

The programme aims to make access to government services far more customer-centric — so it’s easier for people to access our services. They’ll have more control over the information government holds and shares about them — with more say over who can see their information (consent).

At the heart of making things easier for people will, of course, be intuitive processes and plain language applications. We’re working on ditching the gobbledygook that caused the brainstrain!

Media Team
Department of Internal Affairs | Births, Deaths, and Marriages (BDM)