Te reo Māori: The advice we can offer

Inez Romanos | September 13, 2019

Kia eke te Wiki o te Reo Māori! Māori Language Week is here. We’re all having a go, and hope you are too.

Image, tiki face with a rainbow pukana

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. Image by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori. Creative Commons licence.

Here at Write we’re specialists in English. We don’t offer specific advice about te reo Māori or translation services. But we keep an eye out when we’re editing or consulting, and if we spot something that looks wrong to us, we’ll let you know. Several of us speak a little Māori, and we know where to go to do initial checks for correctness.

If you’re looking for a good source of first-line advice, we recommend maoridictionary.co.nz.

Our style guide keeps your Māori usage correct and consistent

The Write Style Guide offers advice about macrons, Māori place and organisation names, plurals, and greetings.

As a style guide, it doesn’t cover your communications style, like tone of voice. Here, style means a set of standards for punctuating and formatting your writing. Using style correctly makes your writing consistent, polished, and professional.

Here are our style guide’s tips about using te reo well.

Use macrons correctly

Macrons show a long vowel sound in te reo Māori.
Ngāi Tahu
tēnā koe

Macrons can be essential to differentiate words with similar spelling.
kaka (clothing)
kākā (large native forest parrot)
kakā (hot, inflamed)
kāka (brown bittern — a rare bird living in swamps)

Use maoridictionary.co.nz to check which Māori words need macrons.

Use dual Māori–English place names correctly

Many official place names are dual names, incorporating the original Māori place name and the English name. Check the New Zealand Gazetteer on the Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) website for specific place names.

Here are some examples:

Aoraki / Mount Cook
Matiu / Somes Island
Fox Glacier / Te Moeka o Tuawe
Milford Sound / Piopiotahi

Separate dual names with a slash and put a space on each side. The LINZ website also has information about writing place names with macrons.

Check how an organisation prefers to be known

Some organisations prefer to be known by their Māori name. Check their website to find out.

Use     Te Puni Kōkiri
Not     Ministry of Māori Development

Use     Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori
Not     Māori Language Commission

Write plurals correctly

Plurals don’t take an ‘s’ in Māori. The context shows whether a word is plural.

The kiwi is settling into its new environment
The kiwi are in the nocturnal house with our three tuatara.

If you use te reo Māori greetings, also use te reo Māori farewells

Kia ora                Hello / Hi
Ata mārie            Good morning
Ahiahi mārie       Good afternoon
Hei konā mai      Goodbye for now
Mā te wā             Bye for now / See you later
Noho ora mai      Stay well
Nāku noa, nā      Yours sincerely

Our new style guide’s out next month

We’re putting the finishing touches on the eighth edition of The Write Style Guide, with a fresh new cover. Watch this space!

Ka pai!

Insights, tips, and professional development opportunities.