Clearmark/Wondermark Plain Language Awards Are Important to Customer Service

I’ve said this hundreds of times: if we don’t communicate effectively, we don’t serve effectively. It’s as simple – and as difficult- as that. If customers can’t understand what you have to offer, can’t understand where to find it or what they’re supposed to do with it, then they can’t use your services. And you’ve failed.

Nominations for the annual Clearmark and Wondermark Plain Language Awardsare being accepted now. They recognize the best-and worst-documents, legal writing, and websites (electronic media) in government, non-profits, and the private sector. Entries are judged both on design and language, because both of those elements contribute to clarity.

So why are these awards so important to customer service? Because they give us – you- wonderful examples to follow. Take a look at last year’s Clearmark winners, and you’ll see what plain writing should be. And those Wondermark winners shine the light on what you don’t want to do.

There is a small fee for submitting Clearmark nominations – $75 for government entries and $100 for non-profit and private entries. But you get something pretty terrific for that money, win or lose. You’ll get a summary of the critiques of each of the judges who review your entry. These are some of the most experienced and widely recognized plain writing experts around the world (I say this with due modesty, since I’m among them); and you’ll get a thorough assessment of what’s good, and what could be better, from a panel of these authorities. I’m guessing some of you pay consultants a whole lot more than that to advise you on your documents or websites…this is a real bargain.

I encourage you to submit your best documents, legal writing, and/or websites (or other media) for Clearmark Awards. Deadline is March 3, 2012. And if there’s a document or website that’s been driving you crazy, nominate it for a Wondermark Award (there is no fee for Wondermark awards, and you have the option to be anonymous).

As important, I encourage you to review past award winners and be on the lookout for this year’s winners. See what makes them worthy of acclaim (or shame). Use that knowledge to improve your own writing.

If we don’t communicate effectively, we don’t serve effectively.

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