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Winners announced in the 13th Plain English Awards

Winners in the 13th annual Plain English Awards were announced at a ceremony in Wellington this evening. Wellington Mayor Justin Lester gave an opening address to a full house of finalists from throughout New Zealand, gathered at the City Gallery Wellington.

Another year of champions recognised

The award for the Plain English Champion — Best Individual or Team went to the Better Letters Project team at the Ministry of Social Development.

Praise for best documents and websites

The award for the Best Plain English Document in the private sector went to JUNO Investing Magazine for its JUNO KiwiSaver Scheme guide.

Dunedin City Council took out the public sector award with its document Investing in our great small city/Te Whakatāpae i tēnei taone.

The Best Plain English Website award for the public sector went to Auckland Council for the website.

The private sector award for this category went to Xero for its website.

Rethinking a document or website to improve it

The Best Plain English Turnaround award went to Infinite Possibilities Limited for the turnaround of its client relationship agreement.

Legal, Technical Communicator, and Annual Report categories

Draper Cormack Group Limited took out the Best Plain English Legal Document award for its Terms and Conditions.

The Best Plain English Technical Communicator was Kaye Rayner from Sysdoc.

Ryman Healthcare won Best Plain English Annual Report for its Annual Report 2018.

Spotlight on the humble sentence

The Ministry of Social Development won the award for Best Sentence Transformation.

People’s Choice — the best and the worst

Members of the public also submitted entries for two categories. The People’s Choice awards recognise the best and worst in government and corporate communications. The Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) won the Best Plain English Communication award for its document Thinking of Living in a Retirement Village? The judges said:

This document breaks down highly complex, life-changing information into accessible chunks that the average New Zealander can easily absorb. This is an outstanding communication that meets a pressing public need.

The People’s Choice Worst ‘Brainstrain’ Communication award went to the Companies Office, who received this could-do-better award for its document Companies Office Societies and Trusts Online. The judges said:

This form illustrates why structure and design are crucial parts of plain English communication. Although the form does not force its readers to sift through large amounts of complex text, it is still hard to use due to the disorganised and visually unappealing way it presents its information.

The person who nominated the document said:

As an office bearer in a small incorporated society, I have to file an annual return. If I get it wrong, my society may be struck off the incorporated societies register. One year I missed a small tick box placed within a line of text and several months later my organisation got a letter threatening to strike it off. It took a long time to work out what had been done wrong! Things are no better this year.

New Zealanders continue to benefit after 13 years

After 13 years of Awards, New Zealanders continue to reap the benefits of business and government using clear communication to engage with their clients, consumers, and customers. The Awards reinforce the element of care that lies behind reader-focused communications.

Awards founder, and CE of plain language consultancy Write Limited, Lynda Harris says:

‘Care’ is one of the qualities associated with plain English that I hold closest to my heart. People who choose to communicate in plain English do, by definition, care about their readers. They put the needs of their readers first as they think and write. They care about people, impact, and outcomes.

This element of care — in many cases the lack of it — was a major driver for me in founding the Plain English Awards 13 years ago. Some New Zealand organisations were already embracing plain English back then, but clarity was the exception rather than the rule. I wanted to find a way to honour and celebrate organisations that were already doing the right thing — and encourage others to follow that good example.

Awards sponsors

Sponsors for this year’s Awards included WriteMark, Write Limited, NZ Super Fund, Immigration New Zealand,, Wright Family Foundation, TechCommNZ, Graphic Solutions, Streamliners, and Consumer NZ.

Other sponsors, whose contributions to the Awards were invaluable, are Editor Software (United Kingdom), JUNO Investing Magazine, volunteer organisation Community Comms Collective, Shelly Davies Writing & Training, and Summer KiwiSaver Scheme.

Find out more

See the full list of winners and finalists at

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