Plain English Awards

celebrate New Zealand's clearest communicators

Winner: People’s Choice — Worst ‘Brainstrain’ Communication 2015

Funds Administration NZ Limited

Sponsor Karen McDonald (Consumer NZ) with the bin of sour worms for the 'Brainstrain' winner


Document name

Lifestages KiwiSaver Scheme Investor Update


Judges’ comment

Sadly, this document was a unanimous choice for the Brainstrain award. We felt a bit sorry for any investor trying to understand it.

Language should connect writer and reader, but in this case the language puts up a wall of complicated terms and phrases. You clearly have significant expertise in your subject, but you need to use much simpler language and concepts to communicate what you know to your readers.

We hope that you’ll look on this Brainstrain award as an opportunity to make improvements and to better connect with your investors.

Your paragraphs are a reasonable length, but many of your sentences are over 40 words. Most readers will struggle with sentences this long, especially when they contain so many complex ideas and asides.

We see you’ve tried hard to write engagingly in the opening paragraph. You’ve used metaphor and nostalgia to draw readers in. But the rest of the document does not follow this style. You’ve used jargon and complex terms instead of simpler words that your readers will be familiar with.

It seems your readers would need a degree in economics or finance to understand this document.

This document would be better suited to an industry magazine for professionals. It misses the mark for connecting with a general audience of everyday investors.