The Plain English Awards 2014

TCANZ is one of the sponsors of the Writemark Plain English Awards. What are the Plain English Awards about? “They help raise the bar for clear communication. Each year, organisations and members of the public are invited to submit documents and websites that they think are outstanding examples of plain English — or of gobbledygook. Independent panels of plain English experts and advocates judge the entries and decide the finalists and winners in each category.” TCANZ committee members Peter Russell and Emily Cotlier were two of the award judges, in attendance at the awards ceremony on November 27th, a windy spring evening in Wellington at the Royal Society.

Judge Emily Cotlier, left, with winner Janet Green of MSD, holding the trophy.

Judge Emily Cotlier, left, with winner Janet Green of MSD, holding the trophy.

TCANZ wishes to thank all the competitors for the Best Plain English Technical Communicator Award. The judges said that it was a formidable crew this year, but in the end, the first place winner was Janet Green at the Ministry of Social Development. Judge Sue Kerr summarised this entry beautifully: “Genuinely technical content – how to deal with risk- and a genuine, successful attempt to make it easy to understand and act on. Overall a great execution of an internal communication effort over different media.”

Peter Russell judged the Plain English Turnaround category, won by MAS House and Contents Insurance. Gregory Fortuin, chair of the Writemark Plain English Awards trust, later commented that this was exactly what the Plain English Awards were about: making vital information accessible and comprehensible to all, using clear language.

Other highlights were the large and lively crowd of New Zealand’s finest communicators; the emcee, witty lawyer James Elliott; and, of course, the award winners. The full list of award winners is here at the Plain English Awards site. This year, the fabled Brain Strain award – bestowed on the organisation responsible for the most brain-bending piece of writing in need of Plain English – was won by Air New Zealand. They received this dubious honor for their overwritten pre-flight information, and will be the proud recipients of a rubbish bin filled with sour worm candy. The runner up, the Earthquake Commission, charmed the crowd by sending a note saying that that they’d had such a year that they’d be happy to win any award.

Next year is the tenth anniversary of these awards. If you’ve been watching from the sidelines, it’s an excellent time to get involved, as an entrant, a judge, or a communications individual nominating an organisation for a Turnaround or Brain Strain award.

About Emily Cotlier
Emily Cotlier
Emily Cotlier is a senior technical and web communicator. Her more unusual assignments have included writing about the New Zealand launch of Viagra, editing academic papers about meat-cutting robots, and documenting the technology that enabled the mid-2000’s launch of pomegranate-juice products in the United States. She is an expert user of single-sourcing tools, particularly the MadCap Software suite, and of Wordpress. She is also on the board of the Technical Communicators Association of New Zealand.

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