Out the Gobbledegookers

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NZ’s best and worst documents and web pages are about to get the treatment from Consumer NZ, which is sponsoring these two categories at the annual Plain English Awards.

“It’s that time of year again when we’re looking for website pages or documents that left you scratching your head,” says Consumer ceo Sue Chetwin. “We want the best and worst documents or webpages you’ve come across.”

You can enter any 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 obscurity and gobbledygook.

In 2014, Air New Zealand won the dreaded Brainstrain award for its privacy notice, but didn’t front up to the awards ceremony to claim the dubious prize  a stainless steel rubbish bin filled with sour lollies.

In past years, says Chetwin, Brainstrain ‘winners’ have taken it on the chin and transformed their offending document, often to the benefit of thousands of New Zealanders.

Legal Beagle, last year’s winner of the People’s Choice award for Best Plain English Communication, chose to write all their website content in plain English with no legal jargon. Legal Beagle is the online legal division of New Plymouth firm Dennis King Law.

“We believe this helps our clients to better understand the law and make well-informed decisions about their legal matters, such as buying or selling a house, setting up a family trust, and making a will,” said founder Dennis King.

Eight other categories are open to public and private sector organisations to nominate their own plain English work. Categories honour excellent documents and websites in various sectors, as well as the people and organisations who are using plain English to create positive change.

Each category includes a trophy and a prize. The top prize, worth $10,000 (what exactly this means was unclear at press time) goes to the Best Plain English Organisation.

The WriteMark New Zealand Plain English Awards are run by a not-for-profit trust which aims to bring plain English into common use in New Zealand. Entries are judged by an independent panel of national and international plain English specialists and advocates.

Entries for this year’s Plain English Awards close on Sunday 30 August.

To enter, visit:

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