Writing Policy Documents
Policy writing can appear to be a daunting task, particularly if you’re new to it. However, if you’ve done your policy development preparation, and follow a few simple rules, you’ll be well on your way to drafting a successful policy.
Rule 1 – Keep it Simple
Your policy needs to read and be easily understood by a wide variety of people:
- Write your policy in plain English; be clear and concise, and avoid jargon, complex language and long paragraphs.
- Avoid jargon, unnecessarily technical terms, or overly formal words and phrases. Use common terms, such as ‘use’ rather than ‘utilise’.
- Try to avoid the overuse of acronyms, and always expand an acronym in the first instance. You should also ensure that you’ve included each acronym in your Definitions.
Rule 2 – Keep it Active
Succinct documents written in an active voice are generally easier to comprehend.
- Keep it succinct; say it in as few words as possible. Use ‘before’ rather than ‘prior to’, and ‘often’ rather than ‘in most cases’.
- Use active voice rather than a passive voice, and write in the present tense. Use “this Policy and its guidelines are accessible to all academic staff and students” rather than “academic staff and students may access this Policy and its guidelines”.
- Avoid the use of ambiguous terms such as ‘should’ and ‘shall’. For mandatory actions, use 'must'. For recommended actions, use 'recommended'. Try to limit the use of ‘will’ to occasions when it is describing a future action, and not as a synonym for ‘must’.
- Use gender-neutral language such as ‘their’ or ‘they’ rather than 'he or she'. All UOW policies must comply with the Inclusive Language Guidelines.
Rule 3 – Keep it Consistent
Consistency is essential for effective policy.
- Define the meaning of the important terms used in your Policy in the Definitions section. Ensure that you employ these terms consistently, across all of your policies and procedures. Consult Governance Unit if you require assistance with definitions.
- Use the approved policy and procedure template - documents written and presented in consistent manner aids readability.
- Review related Rules, Policies, and Procedures to ensure consistency with the existing University Policy framework.
Rule 4 – Keep it Current
Future-proof your policy by avoiding details that may quickly become outdated.
- Don’t use specific staff names or contact details – where possible use a generic group email address or phone number (such as firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Use links to further information sparingly, and try to keep those links to the Supporting Documents section at the beginning of the Policy. Remember that your Policy may be printed, so must make sense when read off-line in hard copy.
Rule 5 – Keep it Specific
Talk straight - mean what you say and say what you mean.
- Rather than "submit the appropriate form" say "Submit the Statutory Declaration for Academic Consideration form".
- Order your policy with descriptive and informative headings.
- Use tables and flowcharts to clarify processes where appropriate.
Format of Policy Documents
All UOW policy documents must be developed and/or reviewed according to the Standard on UOW Policy and following the Procedure for the Development and Management of UOW Policy.
All UOW policies, codes, standards and rules must be in the UOW Policy Template format [dot] and all procedures and guidelines must be in the UOW Procedure Template [dot]. The appropriate templates are available for download from: