18 Nov 2018

'Simplifying the language' helps ministry win Plain English award

8:51 pm on 18 November 2018

The Ministry of Social Development is being praised for ditching jargon.

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Photo: RNZ/ Rebekah Parsons-King

This week, the government agency took out the top prize at the annual Plain English awards, which encourage organisations to use clear, simple language.

The ministry's Better Letter's project aims to transform the almost 6 million letters it sends each year to clients.

Its general manager of communications, Louise Beaumont, said they have tried to make things simpler, for people who are often vulnerable.

"We used to say things like 'if you are in receipt of a benefit' well now we just say 'if you're getting a benefit', or 'these are your obligations', we say 'these are the things you need to do' and if you have a subsequent child we say 'if you have another baby' - so it's just simplifying the language."

Ms Beaumont said using the right language with people changes the relationship.

The founder of the Plain English awards says organisations are getting better at communicating clearly.

The awards founder, and chief executive of Writing Consultancy, Lynda Harris, said since starting 13 years ago the awards recognition is having an effect.

"We notice in the private sector, particularly perhaps in the legal sector, there was such a growing awareness of the need for plain language, and the fact that there was just more of a demand from the public to have something that they can understand."

The awards also recognise the worst - with a societies and trusts document from the Companies Office taking the 'Brainstrain' honours.

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