Whether you create content for public, private, or nonprofit organizations, we want to see your best plain language work.

Frequently Asked Questions: Table of Contents

Choosing a Category

Highlighting Key Information in Your Entry

Submitting Multiple Entries

Joining the Center for Plain Language

Paying for Your Entry

Entering Documents From Outside the United States

Maximizing Your Entry

Selecting Winners

Understanding the WonderMark Awards

Attending the ClearMark Awards Ceremony

2016 ClearMark Awards: FAQ

Choosing a Category

Q: What are the entry categories?

A: In English and Spanish, we have five main categories this year, and each have subcategories of either “long” and “short” content:

Original Documents Any document created originally using plain language. Enter any document posted on the web in the “Document” category, not the “Website” category.

  • Long (six or more pages)
  • Short (up to five pages)

Before and After Documents An entry that includes both an original, difficult document and the revised, plain language version. Judges consider the improvements.

  • Long (six or more pages)
  • Short (up to five pages)

Website Websites or significant portions of websites. (Note: Enter any document posted on the web in the “Document” category, not the “Website” category.)

  • Long (six or more pages)
  • Short (up to five pages)

Multimedia – Materials that include short video clips, Powerpoint presentations, wizards, interactive advisors, and so on. Videos by themselves are not eligible for a ClearMark award.

  • Long (six or more pages)
  • Short (up to five pages)

Legal – Legal documents such as regulations, contracts, leases, privacy statements, jury instructions, or other documents addressing primarily legal issues.

  • Long (six or more pages)
  • Short (up to five pages)

Q. Which category would monthly statements belong in?

A: The category you choose depends on whether the statements are new or revised documents.

  • Enter new monthly statements in the Original Documents category.
  • Enter revised monthly statements in the Before and After category.

Q. What happened to the Public and Private categories?

A: Based on feedback we received from our judges and the organizations that submitted entries, we’ve removed that distinction.

Q: Can I enter infographics? If so, what category would they go in?

A: Yes, you can nominate your infographic for a ClearMark Award.

  • From Scratch: If you’ve created an infographic from scratch, please enter in the “Original” category.
  • Revised Content Turned Into Infographic: If you have original text and you chose to revise it by creating an infographic, please enter in “Before and After.”

Here is one, simple example. We are not saying this is an ideal example; it is simply an example of an infographic.

Some further clarification: An individual graph or chart is not, by itself, an infographic. Generally, the infographics must tell a complete story or describe a concept. Although they often include words, infographics use visuals to both tell their story and guide readers through the information.

On the very best infographics, you convey the primary story through the pictures, charts and drawings. On infographics, words add to the story conveyed by the pictures, rather than the pictures adding to the words. A quick Google search for Infographic will get you hundreds of examples. Perusing those should give you a sense of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Q: Can I enter videos? If so, what category would they go in?

A: We don’t accept standalone videos for the awards. Judges felt it was difficult to judge the video against the ClearMark criteria because many of the elements — such as navigation, structure and use of plain language techniques — do not apply in the same way. Good videos must meet a different set of standards particular to their mode.

For these reasons, we do not accept videos.

However, if your video is part of a multimedia presentation or website, you can certainly choose to point the judges to the video as part of your entry. The judges will then review your video as a part of the whole and judge the content as to whether it supports the message.

Q: What category should I use for e-newsletters or blogs?

A: We recommend you only submit e-newsletters and blogs if they have very specific plain-language goals and strategies.

  • e-newsletter: If you feel your e-newsletter is a good fit for the ClearMark Awards, please submit it as either a “Before and After” or “Original” document.
  • blog: If you think your blog is well-suited to the ClearMark Awards, please submit it in the “Website” category.

Q: If a blog accompanies a video with a specific goal, does that go in Multimedia?

A: Yes, if your entry includes multimedia, please use that category.

Highlighting Key Information in Your Entry

Q: How many document pages will judges review?

A: You can submit a complete website, but please focus your entry on the five pages that you believe best showcase your plain-language accomplishments. If you’re submitting a long document of any sort, help the judges see the document at its best and point them to the pages you most want them to read.

Q: On websites, am I able to show the “before” to see how the “after” is a vast improvement?

A: Yes, you will be able to show before-and-after progress. We encourage you to include images in the documents you upload.

Submitting Multiple Entries

Q: Can the same organization submit entries for two different categories?

A: Yes, you can enter as many documents as you would like.

Q: Can I submit the same document in multiple categories?

A: Unless you are entering a bilingual document, only submit your entry in the one category you believe best represents your document.

Q: Can I submit two entries for the same category?

A: Yes, you can submit as many documents in each category as you would like.

Joining the Center for Plain Language

Q: Why does it make sense to become a Center for Plain Language member before entering?

A: We offer special discounted rates for all members. If you join before submitting your entries you can:

  • Save money on every entry you submit
  • Enjoy a year of membership benefits
  • Demonstrate your support for plain language

Q: Do companies or individuals become members of the Center for Plain Language?

A: Individuals become members. However, we actively encourage individuals and companies to become sponsors of the Center and the ClearMark Awards. These sponsorships include membership and additional benefits, such as your name in the program. This year, we’re launching the inaugural “Title Sponsor” which has even more benefits. Learn more about ClearMark and Center sponsorship.

Paying for Your Entry

Q: What are the entry fees?

A: Entry fees vary depending on your organization type and membership status with the Center for Plain Language.

  • Members: $85/entry
  • Government agencies: $100/entry
  • Non-members: $135/entry

Q: Does the Center accept credit card payments for entries?

A: Yes, you may pay for your entry using a credit card.

Entering Documents From Outside the United States

Q: What countries do we accept entries from?

A: The 2016 ClearMark Awards celebrate the best plain language across North America. You can enter your content if you are based in North America and created content for a North American audience.

Q: Can I enter if I am based outside of North America but created content for a North American audience?

A: Yes, as long as the content is for a North American audience, you can submit documents.

Q: Are documents drafted for use in Puerto Rico eligible?

A: Yes, documents drafted for U.S. territories are eligible.

Maximizing Your Entry

Q: How can I showcase my work in the best light?

A: Share the challenges and constraints you faced when creating your plain language document. The better we understand the context of your work, the better we can truly understand your accomplishments. In addition, think about the judging criteria as you compose your entry. They are what the judges will use to assess your entry.

Q: Whats one critical piece of advice all nominators should know?

A: Proofread your entry! Because the ClearMark Awards celebrate clear, effective communication, proofreading errors in your entry will detract from our judges’ ability to effectively evaluate your work.

Selecting Winners

Q: What criteria do judges use when evaluating entries?

A: We base our judging criteria on the international plain language standards. Please think about these criteria when you’re completing your entry form!

Q: When are winners announced?

A: In March 2016, we’ll notify everyone who is a finalist and earns an Award of Distinction. We announce Category and Grand Award winners at the ClearMark Awards celebration on May 10, 2016, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Understanding the WonderMark Awards

Q: What are the WonderMark Awards?

A: The WonderMarks “celebrate” documents that are so poorly written they make you wonder aloud what the writer was thinking — and how someone could have signed off on this content. Previous “winners” range from confusing road signs to frighteningly convoluted hospital-discharge papers.

Q: Who can submit entries for the WonderMark Awards?

A: Absolutely anyone who sees bad communication!

Q: How can I submit entries for the WonderMark Awards?

A: Submit a WonderMark. Winners are announced during the awards ceremony on May 10, 2016.

Q: What is the Turnaround award?

A: We periodically recognize previous WonderMark “winners” who transform their publicly shamed document into a great example of plain language. It warms our clear-communication hearts to recognize these turnarounds.

Attending the ClearMark Awards Ceremony

Q: When and where is the Awards Ceremony?

A: May 10, 2016, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Q: Who should attend the Awards Ceremony?

A: Everyone who nominated a document, won an Award of Distinction, or just cares about plain language should attend the ClearMark Awards! There’s no better evening for networking with fellow plain language enthusiasts and celebrating your own work in the field.