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Help Me Write a Better Manual

Help Me Write a Better Manual
Writing a policies and procedures manual can be a time-consuming, difficult task. Worse, even after you've put all that effort in, it will still likely be tedious to read. To make your policies and procedures more readable, take a look at the following helpful suggestions:

1) First Policy, Then Procedure

How does one define "policy?" What about "procedure?" Simply put, a policy is a rule developed by your company. A procedure establishes the correct method of following your company's policies.

For optimum comprehension, explain your policies before you explain their corresponding procedures. As an example, let's say that you're writing a policies and procedures manual for teachers in a high school. One important policy might be: "We always treat students with respect." The procedures that result from such a policy could be: "Speak to unruly students calmly and explain that their behavior is unacceptable. If they refuse to cooperate, send them to the principal's office. Avoid raising your voice or insulting the student."

In the above case, the procedures might make less sense if they had not been preceded by the overarching policy. By stating your policy first, you'll set up your readers to see the matter from your point of view. Then, once you've explained the procedures that go along with that policy, they will better understand what the policy means and how to act within its confines.

2) Write for Your Audience

Every policy and procedure will not always apply to each of your employees. Therefore, when you're writing, keep in mind the audience for whom the policies and procedures are intended.

Using the same high school example, let's assume another policy is: "Teachers must volunteer to lead one extra-curricular student activity." This will be a very important section for your teachers to read, but what about your school's caretakers and administrative staff? Clearly, such a policy does not apply to them.

This is not to say that you have to write a separate policies and procedures manual for every category of employee in your company. However, do organize the contents of your manual under subheadings that direct employees to read the areas that apply to them. A high school manual might have the headings "For All Employees," "For Teachers Only," "For Caretakers," etc. Be sure to include a table of contents so that your employees can find the policies and procedures they need to read.

3) Use Proper Grammar and Spelling

Correct spelling and grammar are the cornerstones of a successful policies and procedures manual. Your readers will have a much easier time absorbing such a complex document if the meaning isn't clouded with spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and typos. Take all the time necessary to get it right.

A well-run organization uses its policies and procedures as a backbone to support and guide the activities its members. Your document simply must be easy to read and structured for your audience. It's intuitive: if your policies and procedures document is well organized and grammatically flawless, your employees will be more likely to take its contents seriously.

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