15oct plain english finalists announced hero default

In search of Plain English

We’re looking for documents or webpages that left you scratching your head. We want nominations for the People’s Choice category of the annual WriteMark Plain English Awards. The People’s Choice category is sponsored by Consumer NZ.


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You can enter a document or webpage from any New Zealand business or government organisation for these awards.

The People’s Choice – Best Plain English Communication award honours the most outstanding example of a really clear and helpful plain English document or webpage.

The People’s Choice – Worst “Brainstrain” award goes to the document or webpage most notable for confusing and dumbfounding its target audience with jargon and waffle.

Last year, the Brainstrain award went to the Parliamentary Service for an inscrutable job advertisement. One 62-word sentence read: “The OSP Group ensures that the GM and ELT are provided with strategic vision and leadership in the planning, development, implementation and operation of Service wide governance-related support services, policy and Speakers Directions advice, and communication advice and services for engaging with the Parliamentary Service workforce, Members of Parliament, and the public, through the sector approach with the Office of the Clerk.”

Parliamentary Service general manager David Stevenson’s response: “Someone said maturity comes when you stop making excuses and start making changes – and as an organisation we are maturing.”

Winner of the Best Plain English Communication was the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research for a document on Investor-State Dispute Settlements. As deputy chief executive John Ballingall said: “Let’s be honest, economics is seldom fashionable. And understanding the implications of free trade agreements is rarely on the public’s to-do list. But the public and political debate around the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement brought both economics and trade policy into sharp focus.”

The WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards aim to bring plain English into common use in New Zealand. Entries are judged by a panel of plain English specialists and advocates.

Entries for this year’s Plain English Awards close on 31 August. To enter, visit plainenglishawards.org.nz.