New Zealand’s Plain Language Act

The Plain Language Act was passed by the New Zealand Government recently. The act requires government officials to use simple and easily understandable English language in official documents and websites.

What is the purpose of the act?

Purpose of the Plain Language Act is to improve the efficiency and accountability of public services by making communications clear, inclusive and easily accessible for the general public. According to the bill, plain language is a language that enables the target audience to understand after reading once. The Act defines plain language to be clear, concise and well-organized.

Which language constitutes a plain language?

Though the Plain Language Act does not specify which language constitutes a “plain language”, the Act is intended for the use of “plain English”. The Act does not restrict the use of Maori language (language of indigenous people in New Zealand) in official documents and websites.

What are key features of the Plain Language Act?

  • The law mainly seeks to benefit those who speak English as their second language, those with disabilities and less educated.
  • Its aim is to make New Zealand a more inclusive democracy by removing jargon and complex language from the country’s bureaucracy.
  • The Act mandates the appointment of plain language officers and creation of plain language guidance by the Public Service Commissioner.
  • It also requires the forming a reporting framework to assess the compliance by the government officials.
  • Under this Act, a public service agency must report its compliance to the plain language usage each year to the Public Service Commissioner. The Commissioner, in turn, must report the compliance of the agencies to the Minister of Public Service, who will then table a copy of the report to the New Zealand Parliament within 20 business days upon receiving it.

Though the Act is legally binding once it receives Royal Assent, it does not confer a legal right or impose a legal obligation that is enforceable in the court of law on any person.

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