Resources – Shirley’s Articles For Reprint

How To Write Policies And Procedures That Work

Article written by Marianna Pascal

It’s easy to write policies and procedures well!

That is the first thing I tell participants in our Policy Writing in Plain English workshop. By the end of the day, they believe me! The key is to help your reader understand information quickly.

If you want to write policies and procedures that work, there are 7 ways you can start right now:

1. Headlines, not Headings

Take a look at this newspaper front page. Would these headings inspire you to read the articles? Probably not, right?
Newspapers use headlines because they provide you with the key point. Readers want to see the main point quickly.

Headlines (not headings!) also help your reader understand the content easily.

Look at these before and after sections from policies. Notice how differently you read the paragraph when you start with a headline.

BEFORE (Heading)

Process Evaluation

It’s essential to identify measures necessary to combat various types of fraud. We also need to ensure that these measures are in line with standards set by the ABC Board. From 2-28 May, we will evaluate all processes to identify the most appropriate fraud prevention.

AFTER (Headline)

We Will Evaluate All Processes

It’s essential to identify measures necessary to combat various types of fraud. We also need to ensure that these measures are in line with standards set by the ABC Board. From 2-28 May, we will evaluate all processes to identify the most appropriate fraud prevention.

2. Why Before What

When you’re describing anything new, begin with its purpose. And state that purpose as plainly as possible.

Here is a policy introducing a new tool called the ABC Checklist. Notice in the after example how easy it is to understand what the checklist does when we know why it exists.

BEFORE

The ABC Checklist determines the security rating of a system based on operational impact that arises from a breach of confidentiality.

Its main function is to identify the level of control required to ensure confidentiality and determine the appropriate technology required to manage it.

AFTER

The ABC Checklist is a tool to tell us how much control we need to make a system secure, and what technology we need to manage the system.

It assesses the impact on operations when there is a breach of confidentiality.

3. Predictable Patterns

When you organise your writing into patterns, you will help your readers see information.

BEFORE

REVISIONS TO POLICY

Updated paragraph 3 to replace the previous term ABC with DEF.

Paragraph 6 – Included the reporting of unauthorized disclosure of customer information.

AFTER

REVISIONS TO POLICY

Paragraph 3: Updated to replace the previous term ABC with DEF.

Paragraph 6:
Included the reporting of unauthorized disclosure of customer information.

4. Columns Clarify

In a procedure, columns help readers separate the ‘doer’ of the action, the order of actions, and action itself. Using columns will drastically increase the chance of the procedure being followed properly.

BEFORE

Study Loan Application

  1. Manager receives loan checklist with application.
  2. Hardcopy to be submitted to Operations Services, checklist to be entered into system by Operations Services.

Note: information on all documents must be must be verified by phone with applicant.

AFTER

Applying for a Study Loan

Manager
  1. receives checklist with application.
  1. submits hardcopy of documents to Operations Services.
Operations Services
  1. enters checklist into system.
  1. phones applicant to verify information on documents.

5. Bullets For Two

We tend to think of bullet points for lists. But bullets make even two items crystal clear.

BEFORE

To remove a client from the Automated Payment Scheme an email instruction from the relevant authorized requestors must be sent to Account Services informing the reason to remove.

AFTER

To remove a client from the Automated Payment Scheme, send an email to Account Services

  • Instructing them to remove the client, and
  • Explaining the reason for the removal

6. Kill ‘Shall’

Please promise you will never again write ‘shall’ in your policies. Apart from being outdated, ‘shall’ has 5 different meanings! ‘Shall’ can mean you ‘must’, ‘always’, ‘will’ ‘have the right to’ or ‘have permission to’. Using ‘shall’ makes your message vague.

BEFORE

This policy shall apply to all employees. Employees shall manage project funds as they see fit, and they shall be reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses related to the project. This policy shall expire on 31 December 2021.

AFTER

This policy applies to all employees. Employees may manage project funds as they see fit, and they have the right to be reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses related to the project. This policy will expire on 31 December 2021.

7. We and You

Too many policies are written without ever talking about people. It is people who read the policies, people who write them, and people who have made the policy decisions. So, use words like ‘we’ and ‘you’ where possible.

BEFORE

Due Diligence Requirements

Financial institutions are expected to perform in-depth product due diligence before an investment recommendation can be made. All banks are expected to acquire and document a thorough understanding of all features and conditions of their products.

Effective 1 July 2019, all recommendations must…

AFTER

New Due Diligence Requirements On All Recommendations

Regulators expect us to perform in-depth product due diligence before we recommend an investment to a client. We are expected to show that we understand thoroughly the unique features and conditions of our products.

Effective 1 July 2019, you must include…

When you follow these simple guidelines in all your policies, you will help your readers find information quickly, read easily and understand exactly what they must do.

Would you like your whole team writing crystal clear policies and procedures?

Check out our one-day training program Policy Writing In Plain English designed and conducted by Marianna Pascal. Email me or rekha@sttstraining.com and tell us what you need.

Let’s work together to make all our written documents reader-friendly!

This article was written by Marianna Pascal and reproduced here with her permission.

All articles are copyright © Shirley Taylor. All rights reserved. This information may not be distributed, sold, publicly presented, or used in any other manner, except as described here.

Permission to reprint all or part of any article in your magazine, e-zine, website, blog or organisation newsletter is granted, as long as:

  1. The entire credit line below is included*.
  2. The website link to shirleytaylor.com is clickable (live)**.
  3. You send a copy, PDF, or link of the work in which the article is used when published.

This credit line must be reprinted in its entirety to use any articles by Shirley Taylor:

* Credit line:
© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is a high-energy, high-content speaker who is passionate about motivating individuals to make a real difference in our automated world. With inspiring stories and a fun style, she engages audiences quickly, and encourages them to embrace high-touch as well as high-tech so they can connect with heart.

Shirley has been a trusted member of the professional speaking and training community for many years, and has received several awards for her services in leadership. She served as Asia Professional Speakers Singapore President 2011-12 and as Global Speakers Federation President 2017-18. She has spoken in almost 20 countries all over the world.

Author of 12 books published by international publishers, Shirley has established herself as a leading authority in workplace communication, business writing, and email. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition has sold over half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages.

If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit shirleytaylor.com.

** The website link to shirleytaylor.com must be clickable to receive permission to reprint the article.