Cheryl Stephens Innovation Award

The Cheryl Stephens Innovation Award is an international award recognizing innovation in plain language. The award is sponsored by skritswap.


  • to recognize the significant contribution of a PLAIN member
  • to honor one of PLAIN’s co-founders, Cheryl Stephens, and her outstanding achievements in innovation for plain language on behalf of the community

2021 recipient: Plain Language Academies

Plain Language Academies has demonstrated visionary leadership in the field by developing an online plain language program that addresses an array of needs in plain language training, reflects the plain language process from start to finish, and provides online introductory and advanced courses, as well a certificate of combined courses. They currently offer training in English, Spanish, and French, with plans to add more languages in the near future! In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, this team planned the first coordinated multilingual courses in alignment with the upcoming ISO Standard 24495 on plain language principles.


PLAIN generally presents the award every two years. The winner receives:

  • an engraved presentation award
  • a certificate
  • public acknowledgement of their achievements on the PLAIN website and other PLAIN communication channels

PLAIN’s outgoing president Joanna Richardson (center) announcing the new award at the Clarity 2018 conference in Montreal.  The award, named in honor of one of PLAIN’s founders, Cheryl Stephens (left) is sponsored by skritswap. Melissa Kargiannakis, skritswap founder and CEO, is pictured at right.


The Cheryl Stephens Innovation Award will be presented to a person or organization whose plain language activities have brought significant benefit to the community through one or more of the following areas:

  • Technology – adapting emerging technology to develop new services and systems
  • Advocacy – extending the scope and influence of plain language internationally
  • Research – strengthening the knowledge base for plain language
  • Professional development – helping to develop the skills of plain language practitioners and the institutions supporting them.
  • The Award will especially seek to recognize individuals who have contributed to plain language and the community through voluntary activities.

Eligibility and Judging

To be eligible for the Award, a recipient will generally be a PLAIN member. Serving PLAIN Board members are not eligible for the award.

To select a winner, the PLAIN Board does one or more of the following:

  • calls for nominations from members
  • establishes a selection committee chaired by a PLAIN Board member
  • discusses it at a Board meeting

To be considered, a person must be nominated by a PLAIN member. Their nomination must:

  • be in writing (maximum of 5 pages total for nominating and supporting documents)
  • document the nominee’s achievements, referring to the criteria shown above
  • be supported by another PLAIN member and at least one other individual active in the plain-language profession but not necessarily a member of PLAIN

The Board does not have to present an award at every conference, and may present more than one award.