Recently I came across a beautifully presented little guide book called Keeping it clear for those new to New Zealand. Created by Immigration New Zealand, the guide helps New Zealanders write information that new migrants can easily understand and act on. It’s full of tips like those we teach here at Write: short sentences, active voice, familiar language, and so on.
I’m delighted to find Immigration New Zealand singing a similar song to us! And I’m especially delighted to see plain language promoted as a way to create a welcoming society.
What I like most about this guide is its underlying message of inclusivity. It says, let’s value our migrants and show respect and courtesy by writing in a way they’ll understand. I love this sentiment. Let’s face it, we all want to feel included—feeling included is what makes us happy.
New Zealand organisations still using academic or overly complicated writing styles can be a nightmare for professional migrants. Migrants often assume they need to match this style to fit in and do well, but that’s hard if English isn’t your first language. Passive voice and four-line sentences are super difficult if you’re a non-native speaker!
Where organisations have a plain language culture, migrant writers flourish. They love being able to write short sentences and use the familiar English words they know. And when they write in plain language, they’re much less likely to make grammar mistakes.
New Zealand has skills shortages in several professional areas. We bring engineers from Greece, auditors from the Czech Republic, scientists from France, IT specialists from Asia. In organisations that value plain language, these migrants can write clear, grammatically correct documents more quickly and confidently. And editing and proofreading costs diminish too—always a bonus for busy managers.
If your organisation employs migrants, think about how they — and you — would benefit from plain language.