Plain English Awards

December 2017

Plain English Awards Logo

Emma Harding reports on November's WriteMark Plain English Awards event at the Royal Society Te Apārangi in Wellington.

Last month, I had the joy of attending the WriteMark Plain English Awards event at the Royal Society Te Apārangi in Thorndon, Wellington. I make the Awards a priority in my calendar, as it’s always a fun evening.

WriteMark Plain English Awards

It doesn’t just feature people who share a love of language bonding over canapés, music, and drinks – the Awards have a serious side, as Gregory Fortuin (Awards patron) pointed out in his closing address.

We were all there to celebrate excellence in plain English – and to remind ourselves of the reasons for its importance.

© Victoria Vincent: A Beautiful Photo

Spreading the word

Lynda Harris of Write (founder of the Awards 12 years ago) spoke of the challenges of spreading the plain English message. She has recently drawn inspiration from Thankyou, an amazing social enterprise which two young Aussies started in 2008 with $1000 and the modest aim of stopping global poverty. They are proof of what even small groups of people can do if they put their mind to it. She challenged us all to think of ways to achieve more within our sphere of influence – for the sake of people everywhere who need plain English to help them navigate an increasingly complex world.

Louisa Eades

Plain English Technical Communicator of the year

Louisa Eades took the very important award which TechCommNZ sponsors – the Best Plain English Technical Communicator Award 2017.

In a speech that conformed to the specified time limit with amusing precision, she succinctly explained the role of a TC and encouraged others to participate next time.

The audience loved it!

© Victoria Vincent: A Beautiful Photo

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Superu’s Making sense of evaluation – a handbook for everyone was the Best Plain English Document (Public Sector). Category judge Ralph Brown praised the conversational, jargon-free text, and the effective case study using penguins. Although Superu’s focus is on providers, funders, policy makers, and others in the social sector, I’ve had a look and think it might be applicable more broadly as an approach to evaluation in other contexts. And the penguins are gorgeous!

Martin Hawes, prolific writer on matters of finance, seemed faintly puzzled that he has a reputation for making finance understandable. He certainly had the audience with him when talking about financial jargon (stocks or bonds, anyone?) and how active language supports financial literacy. “Finance is an industry good at taking simple stuff and making it hard.” Ain’t that the truth?

Brainstrain Award

Finally, two keenly-anticipated categories are always the People’s Choice best and worst. This year, Wellington City Council scooped up the Best Plain English Communication award for Our Wellington — Tō Tātou Pōneke (winter 2017 edition). Inland Revenue graciously and hilariously received the award for Worst 'Brainstrain' Communication for Inland Revenue direct debit conditions.

I strongly urge you to watch and share Andrew Stott’s priceless acceptance video – it’s guaranteed to be more fun than reading up on direct debits.

I’ll be back next year, that’s for sure. Will you?

© Victoria Vincent: A Beautiful Photo

Emma Harding

Emma Harding