Corporate Governance, Risk and Compliance Services

Good practice

Use of language

  1. Policies are necessary and are written for a wide audience. Because of this they must be simple and easy to read. Use everyday words as your default.

  2. Use as few words as possible to make your point.

  3. Phrase the policy using short sentences with each sentence expressing one idea.

  4. Be consistent with your word choice and use the one word for the same concept throughout.

  5. If the policy mandates action, use "must” or “will", not “should”. If an action is optional or permissive, use ‘may’. For recommended actions, use 'recommended'.

  6. Use gender neutral language, for example, use ‘they’ or ‘their’ instead of ‘he/she’ or ‘his/her’.

  7. Avoid jargon and technical language that requires specialist knowledge, unless specialist terms are relevant to the context.

  8. Future proof your policy by avoiding information that is quickly out dated and that therefore requires regular amendment to the policy. For example, use position titles rather than names wherever possible.

  9. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations except where necessary – use the full term on the first occasion with the acronym immediately after in brackets. For example, Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC).

  10. Use active voice rather than a passive voice, and write in the present tense.

Communication - the audience comes first

  1. Effective policy is known. In defining the people who your policy will impact, who will implement your policy, and will use your policy, you are defining the audience you need to communicate with. Effective communication is tailored to an intended audience. The aspects of communication that you will tailor include:
    • the tone of your message
    • the channels you use to communicate
    • the timing of your messages.

    Good communication is especially important for making students aware about policies that are important for the student experience

  2. Establish and maintain sound relationships with people in key areas. Be responsive to their ideas and concerns. Talk these through and take time to listen.

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  1. Consultation identifies issues with the operation of a policy but is also important for increasing awareness and engagement with new policy. Take the time and do it well.

  2. There are a variety of consultation strategies:
    1. establish Expert Groups of key stakeholders;
    2. invite written submissions;
    3. conduct surveys that are manageable in terms of demands;
    4. hold campus/departmental forums or presentations;
    5. establish formal committees.

The consultation process should be planned and evaluated so that next time it can be modified if need be.

The structure - keep it simple

  1. Define unique terms that, by being defined, would add to the reader’s understanding of the policy.

  2. Order the content of the policy/procedure in a logical sequence. For example:
    1. put broad principles before specific details
    2. put rules before exceptions
    3. put substantive material before procedure

  3. Use short paragraphs (maximum of 100 words for policies; maximum 40 words for procedures).

  4. Use lists - it makes it easier to read, and to find references.

  5. Use numbering to enable easy referencing.

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Naming the policy or procedure

  1. Give every document a name that immediately identifies its subject matter. This will help the search and categorisation functions to operate effectively.

  2. Do not begin with “The”, “University”, “Policy on”, “Procedures for” or similar formulations.
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18th March 2014