Sometimes an idea seems so obvious, you can’t believe it hasn’t been done already – like awards that recognise the importance of plain language and good design. Such awards are huge elsewhere in the world, so why not Australia? This has bothered me since I discovered we were missing out.
Awards are not just about recognising good work, they are about the end game – producing messages that are clear and easily understood by all Australians, not just those who can ‘read between the lines’. The injustice of it bothers me. Our immigration rates are high and literacy rates lower than we’d like to admit. If our public-facing messages aren’t clear, sometimes that leads to frustration or not being able to fully take part in society. Sometimes, the consequences are life-threatening. Think bushfires and health epidemics – you need to know what to do and fast.
So when Jo Kirby shared a LinkedIn post about the New Zealand plain English awards, and I said ‘Is there anything like this in Australia? (pretty sure there wasn’t) and she said “No, want to start some?” my answer was swift and immediate. Hell yeah! Then when Carol Mackay, who knew us both, said “Count me in” that was how it started. We saw the value in recognising and rewarding good communication and calling out the bad. That’s why we have a gold and a lemon award in our categories – the good and the bad. Who wants to be known for the lemon award? Doubt they’ll win that award twice = positive change.
About the awards
The Clear Communication Awards acknowledge digital and print materials that combine excellence in design, communication and plain language – because everyone benefits from being able to understand the information they need more easily. The awards are a joint project of Carol Mackay, me and Joh Kirby (pictured left to right at our first meeting – in a wine bar!).
The awards open in June 2019.
Carolyn Alexander is an award-winning journalist and communications specialist who works with businesses and individuals on their short-term projects, including plain language materials. She has managed promotions for the Herald Sun, organised events attended by up to 10,000 people and judged numerous awards.