University Policy Office

1.01.3—Writing Style Guide

Introduction

Procedures describe, in a concise and objective way, exactly what is to be done to ensure that an activity is carried out as required by the policy. Procedures must be reviewed and updated on a regular basis or any time the policy is changed.

Procedures are stated in a format where:

  • Each action or process is clearly described;
  • The inputs and outputs of each action are identified;
  • The area responsible for each action is identified;
  • An auditor can use the procedure to check whether the procedure is being followed.

Procedures are written in a style that is easy to read and understand.

Guidelines

When writing procedures speak directly to the reader. Use a uniform, standard outline format for sequential steps, listed in the Process section of the procedure. Example (I., A., 1., a, (1), (a), (i), (aa)).

List each step separately and in a logical order, and:

  • Write each step as a complete sentence, assuming the reader is performing the action, beginning with a command or action verb - such as: prepares, approves, files, sends, delivers. If the action is not performed by the reader, begin the sentence with the responsible area and followed with a command or action verb. Example: The department supervisor reviews, approves, and forwards the form to the appropriate vice president for approval.
  • Use plain English. Choose precise and unpretentious terms. The more complex the subject matter, the greater the need for a simple direct writing style.
  • Specify the area responsible to carry out instructions. Do not use people's names.
  • Use the present tense.
  • Use bulleted lists for items that do not require sequential processing.

Avoid and omit:

  • Long paragraphs.
  • Vague and ambiguous words such as establish, implement and administer.
  • Jargon.
  • Gender-specific pronouns - use they, their, theirs.
  • An introductory sentence if the title of the procedure serves the same function - e.g. If a procedure is called 'Handling a Customer Complaint', don't begin with "To handle a customer complaint you should . . ."

Include the web link to forms as they are referenced in the procedure.


Revisions

04/10/2017 Transfer of policy page from HTML to CMS. General Policy numbers renamed from "2.1000" to "1.00 General University". Specifically from "2.1001.3—Writing Style Guide" to "1.01.3—Writing Style Guide".