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Plain language

The Plain Language Act 2022 requires all public service agencies and crown agents to use plain language. For everyone else, plain language is not required but is highly recommended for readability.

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Plain language Act 2022

The Plain Language Act 2022 came into effect on 21 April 2023. From this date, all new or significantly revised content must use plain language. A significant revision is anything more than minor changes to the content.

Plain Language Act 2022 — New Zealand Legislation

Agencies are required to take steps to support their people to use plain language.

Plain Language Act 2022: Guidance for agencies — Te Kawa Mataaho

Documents that must use plain language

The Plain Language Act applies to content in English that is intended for the general public — rather than a specific person. It includes content that is in print or online.

Content must be in plain language if it’s:

  • about government services or entitlements and how to access them
  • about requirements or obligations, for example: filing or providing information
  • for public education campaigns.
Note: The Plain Language Act 2022 does not stop organisations from using te reo Māori in their documents.

Why use plain language

Only 16% of New Zealand adults are considered to have high literacy levels[Footnote 1].Footnot

People may also:

  • be unfamiliar with the subject and related jargon
  • have limited computer skills.

Using simple words and sentence structures can make information more accessible and easier to scan. This helps to improve transparency and build trust.

Writing using plain language

Documents must use language that is:

  • appropriate to the audience
  • clear, concise and well organised.

For help using plain language, see:


There are online tools available that can help you improve the readability of your content.

Readability testing tools

Utility links and page information

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