The 11th Annual ClearMark Awards are just around the corner and our very own Evalyn Shea is one of the judges! Curious about the awards, the judging criteria, or the award ceremony? We’ll cover it all here—just be sure to check back for the winners!
What are the ClearMark Awards?
The ClearMark Awards from the Center for Plain Language are dedicated to recognizing the best English, Spanish, and French plain language content. Any content can be submitted that has writing and design elements. A few examples of eligible pieces would include:
Podcasts, videos, and audio format content are not eligible.
The submission deadline for the 2021 awards has passed, with all entries required to have been created between January 1st, 2020 and March 31st, 2021 and developed in North America or for a North American audience.
Future submissions can be made through Submittable, which allows you to complete applications at your convenience. There is also a submission fee.
2020’s winners can be seen on the Center for Plain Language’s website.
The Judging Criteria
The highest honor at the ClearMark Awards is for the “Grand Winner.” However, submissions can also win under various categories including Before & After – Print, Apps & Microsites, and Forms, Applications & Statements. Many will also be granted “Awards of Distinction.”
When deciding on winners, the judges for the awards look at seven different criteria. Each of the criteria is scored on a 1 to 5 scale.
The Scoring Scale
- Needs Work: Pieces that need a lot more work and don’t hold up under scrutiny
- Improving: Uses some principles of plain language, but many are misunderstood or misapplied
- Average: The piece is a good example of plain language, but there is room for improvement
- Above Average: Consistent and effective, with only a little bit of room for improvement
- Excellent: Thought provoking, masters the goal, and inspiring
The seven criteria that will be judged using the above scoring scale are:
- Understanding the Audience’s Needs
A submitted piece should have clear intentions, appropriate tone and writing for the intended audience, and have a solid presentation with the end user in mind.
- Style and Voice
Following plain writing principles is essential, but the piece should also be credible, sincere, and avoid jargon. It is also recommended that the tone and style show respect for the intended reader.
- Information Design and Navigation
Judges are looking for a design that captures and keeps the audience’s attention. This can involve a few different elements, including:
- Clean, easy to follow format
- Strong navigation (if necessary)
- Pictures, Graphics, and Charts
Any visuals used in the piece should only be used to actually support and elevate the content, not just thrown in for the sake of being there. Any information conveyed, whether through visuals, graphs, or something else, needs to be understood by the audience but also guide and educate them on the topic, helping them to make decisions.
- Structure and Content
To achieve a high score in this category, content needs to have structure: clear organization, labels, easy-to-follow flow, and effective and clean transitions. The content itself should also serve a purpose, whether that is education, telling a story, or explaining a task or job. Unnecessary details and any overselling should be left out.
Using the correct evaluation methods is essential to scoring well in this section. Some strong methods might include seeking feedback from focus groups or testing materials with the audience—and then making improvements based on that feedback. Evaluations should be appropriate and used at the correct time, and the piece should explain why these methods were used. Judges will also look at how the evaluation shaped or improved the final work.
Finally, judges will be reading to make sure that audiences not only understood the piece, but also that the content helped the business or organization achieve its goals. Judges also want to be sure that this piece can be used as an example of plain writing and information design.
The Winners of the ClearMark Awards
The winners will be announced during the Access for All Conference happening on May 11th through the 13th, 2021. As a virtual event, individuals who want to attend can learn information about tickets, registration, and more here.
Check back after May 13th to see the winners! Good luck to all participants!