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Public urged to speak up against gobbledegook

Public urged to speak up against gobbledegook

Kiwis are being urged to use the annual Plain English Awards to speak up against jargon and bureaucratic babble.

The WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards are held each year to recognise and reward people, businesses and groups doing their best to communicate in plain language. Organisations enter documents, such as brochures, contracts and terms of service, hoping to gain recognition for dealing clearly with the New Zealand public.

However, a range of People’s Choice categories also allows members of the public to have their say. People can use the Best Plain English Document and Best Plain English Website categories to nominate organisations that have given them clear information. ‘Brainstrain’ Award nominations can also be used to have a poke at organisations that serve up gibberish.

Awards founder Lynda Harris says that while the Plain English Awards focus mainly on the very best New Zealand communications, the Brainstrain Awards have also had a very positive impact.

"Reactions to receiving a Brainstrain Award can be interesting. Some organisations get angry. A few stick their heads in the sand and pretend it didn't happen. But a good number have taken the Award on the chin and seen it for the gentle, good-humoured encouragement to do better that it is."

She says organisations like ACC, The Real Estate Institute and the Ministry of Social Development have taken Brainstrain Awards seriously in the past and made real efforts to improve the way they communicate. Some have even re-submitted the offending documents in subsequent years and won awards for having improved them.

"Many organisations produce important documents that could disadvantage a lot of New Zealanders if they are unclear. Members of the public need to speak out when they’re confused by the information they are given. Submitting a People’s Choice nomination is one way they can do this.

"Nominating an organisation is easy and does not take a lot of time, but it could help change the way New Zealand organisations communicate for the better."

Members of the public wanting to make a Brainstrain nomination or to nominate an organisation they are impressed with can do so at the Plain English Awards website: Organisations can also use the website to submit their own writing for an award. Entries close 5 July.

The 2010 WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards will be judged by a panel of local and international plain English professionals. Winners will be announced on 3 September at a ceremony hosted at the Beehive, hosted by Hon Christopher Finlayson, Attorney-General and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.


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