Policy Writing Tips

A policy should tell the reader why it exists, to whom it applies, when and under what circumstances it applies, and its major conditions or restrictions. A policy should also make reference to any previous policies in order to establish the historical and legal context of the current policy.

Good policies are easy to read. “Plain language” is a writing style that helps readers:

  • find what they need,
  • understand what they find, and
  • use what they find to meet their needs.

Issues surrounding policies are usually complex and multifaceted. Talk with stakeholders, peer institutions, and individuals at all levels of the University to get a more comprehensive view of the issue.

Omit unnecessary words. Wordy, dense documents are confusing to the reader. Edit your policy to reduce unnecessary or redundant information.

Select the words carefully. Words like “should” and “may” imply a choice. Use the words “must" or “will” rather than "should."

The best-written policies are written with the reader in mind.

Use a present tense and positive tone.

Use lists. Vertical lists highlight a series of requirements or other information in a visually clear way. Use vertical lists to help your user focus on important material.