Plain English Awards

celebrate New Zealand's clearest communicators

Winner: Plain English Champion — Best Organisation 2017

Utilities Disputes

Jerome Chapman, left, Hannah Morgan-Stone, and William Meldrum from champion organisation Utilities Disputes


Judges’ comments

Utilities’ entry clearly shows how they established a plain English culture by training staff and supporting them during their journey with in-house workshops, coaching, guides, and standards. They are truly plain English champions, and deserve recognition for their expertise and commitment to plain English philosophy.

Utilities Disputes has deliberately embedded plain English into the core of its organisation culture. It hasn’t been an easy or quick process, rather a long journey. And its perseverance and commitment have obviously paid off. Staff practise both the ‘art’ and ‘science’ of plain English, encouraging the concept of plain English throughout their organisation and using plain English tools like storylines to organise their work, and StyleWriter to check it. I was also impressed by the way they focus on making sure their information is accessible to all levels of users. Very well done.


Media statement

In the early days of our existence, a complainant told us she didn’t understand our written decision about her complaint. We knew we had to change. Since then, we have worked relentlessly to improve the clarity of our writing, becoming finalists in the 2013 WriteMark Plain English Awards. At that time, we were known as the Office of the Electricity and Gas Complaints Commissioner.

When we rebranded as Utilities Disputes in 2016, staying committed to clarity was essential to our purpose: giving consumers access to justice. We continue to pay attention to the words, tone, and logical structure of our writing.

We couldn’t have built our strong plain English culture without our leaders investing in our people, keeping us accountable, and cheering us on. Thank you to Nanette Moreau and Jerome Chapman, the current Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner, and Judi Jones, our previous Commissioner. Thank you to all our staff, who have leaned into the challenge.

We are enormously proud to win the 2017 Best Organisation award.

Hannah Morgan-Stone
Senior Conciliator
Utilities Disputes