Important Tips on Formatting Policies | ComplianceBridge

Important Tips on Formatting Policies

Written by ComplianceBridge Policies & Procedures Team on December 20, 2018

A successful policy is one that employees can read, understand and comprehend, and the success of any policy lies in the details. Yes, the content needs to be thoroughly researched and studied, but when policies and procedures are written, formatted and organized inconsistently, they won’t lend themselves well to an easy intake process by employees.

When determining how to write policies and procedures for your company, consider these tips to improve formatting, organizing and composing the content of your policies.

Be Consistent

Use Similar Formatting

It’s important for policies and procedures to look similar across all areas in a company. This will improve employees’ reading apprehension. Throughout an employee’s time with the company, they will have to look at dozens of these kinds of documents, and the more consistent formatting, fonts, titles, and other details are, the easier it will be for them to navigate the content to find what they need to know.

Set and Follow Best Practices

In order to keep the formatting and layout consistent, it’s important for policy writers to follow best practices. If your company doesn’t already, they should create a style guide that standardizes language, organization, fonts, titles, and other styling specifics. With established best practices, documents will look uniform no matter who crafted them.

Use Standard Templates

Instituting templates will streamline the composition of policies and procedures and further standardize documents for employees. Templates are an excellent system to assist anyone who may not know how to write policies and procedures. They mandate which information and sections are needed in a sufficient policy as well as organization and sections titles. Should your company adopt a template system for policy writing, though, policy owners should not alter the basic structure of the template. Sections should not be added, deleted or renamed.

Be Brief

Limit Policy Length

Policies don’t need to be long-winded; employees are busy people. They need to be able to absorb the information in new policies quickly and refer back to them easily in the future. For this reason, policies should be limited to one to two pages. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but generally, if a policy needs to be longer than two pages, the language should be edited down or perhaps the content would make more sense separated into different policies.

Use Succinct Language

One of the first things you realize when learning how to write policies and procedures is that these are formal documents. They are created not only for the benefit of employees but also for issues of legality or compliance. So, not only do they need to be limited in length, they should be as technical as possible. Try to avoid flowery language such as long descriptions or unnecessary fluff.

Be Organized

Use Bullets and Lists

Policies and procedures can cover complex issues, and some employees may not have the same comfort level with the material as others do. Organizing key bits of information in a list format will make it easier to digest by readers, especially when the policy topic is complicated or demands the use of many uncommon words. It’s also a great way to keep yourself, as a policy writer, organized and avoid overly long explanations.

Link to Related Documents and Forms

Policies and procedures often have supplemental documents such as regulations or forms that are pertinent to employees. Linking to these materials from the policy or procedure keeps the entire policy management system organized and navigable. Sometimes, other policies or procedures are also referenced, and these can be linked to as well in order to improve understanding.

Include a Glossary

Avoid using jargon or uncommon words as much as possible during policy writing. However, sometimes specific items such as industry terms, government agencies or legislation will need to be included. Since these won’t be familiar to all employees, organizing uncommon words into a glossary will ensure employees don’t misunderstand concepts while keeping the body of the policy free of longer explanations.

Be Clear

Use Appropriate Titles

The title of the policy, along with all section titles, are extremely important to the ease of navigation and understanding of a policy. You should make sure all titles describe the policy or section accurately and decisively. As a general rule, avoid using acronyms or abbreviations in titles. While they shorten the title, they also make the meaning less clear to employees.

Use Simple Terminology

In titles, you should also be sure to use simple and clear terminology. Avoid using any uncommon words – i.e. any words that require an entry in the glossary. Employees regularly skim section titles when referencing information, and policies should be built around the purpose of easing access and navigation.

Use Decisive Language

Make sure to pay particular attention to word choice when determining how to write policies and procedures at your company. Not only should things such as job roles and departments retain the same name throughout all content, but word choice should also be given some critical thought. Avoid using words such as “would” or “should.” These types of words indicate that something is optional. Instead, in policy writing use definitive words such as “will” or “must.”

Be Concise

Avoid Lengthy Content

In policies, the sentences, paragraphs and lines within should be short and to the point. Shorter sentences and paragraphs will be faster and easier to read by employees. It also makes items and information easier to locate within a policy when content is organized into concise sections.

Avoid Informalities

As policies and procedures will be seen by many eyes in a variety of settings, make sure that all language used is formal and not written with your “voice.” Always write policies and procedures in the third person; avoid addressing anybody as “you.” You should also refer to individuals by role or job title only since the people in these roles is likely to change over time.

TotalCompliance Knows How to Write Policies and Procedures

TotalCompliance by ComplianceBridge puts the tools of policy creation right at your fingertips. It offers a rich templating system for stakeholders to collaborate on a central version of the policy and revise it when necessary. Collaborative tools include version control, messaging, reminders and notifications. No matter the system your company puts in place governing how to write policies and procedures, TotalCompliance has the ability to reinforce and simplify it with tools designed for imposing consistency and structure.

TotalCompliance also manages distribution and reporting of new policies and keeps records of who has read, tested and acknowledged them. It has over a dozen test metrics you can use to configure your comprehension exams, and you can see and manage the results to assist in your compliance training efforts.

If you are considering instituting an enduring methodology for your policy management process, request a private demo with ComplianceBridge today and learn what their software can do for you and your company.

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