Writing Style Guidelines


To describe the writing style for policy and procedure composition in manuals.


When writing documentation for a university manual, the main principle to remember is "keep it simple." The following guidelines are offered to aid in simplifying sentences and vocabulary.

Simplify sentences:

The basic sentence style in a manual generally tells users:

  1. About something: keep action sentence simple and short (about 40 print positions).

  2. How to do something: use the imperative voice.

    1. Use "playscript" style for procedures. Refer to Procedure Formatting Guidelines, APPM section

    2. Provide all relevant details of an action to the users.

Simplify vocabulary:

Procedures and policies are more understandable and usable if simple words are used. The following guidelines are recommended:

  1. Use simple nouns: to identify "who" and "what."

    1. "Who" = job function/position title/department.

    2. "What" = items used to perform the activity, such as materials, supplies, forms, reports, etc.

  2. Use simple verbs: to describe the action performed.

    1. Use present tense: a manual contains current policies and procedures.

    2. Begin each step in a procedure with an action verb, i.e., "Forward invoice to Accounting." (The present tense of an action verb is used.)

  3. Be consistent in using the following to avoid user confusion:

    1. words

    2. acronyms

    3. capitalization

    4. hyphenations

    5. formatting

    6. spelling

  4. Document a reference to a form using these guidelines:

    1. Capitalize the first letter of each major word in the form's title.

    2. Underline the words of the form's title.

    3. Write the abbreviation or acronym after the form title and set within parentheses.

    4. Follow the form title or acronym with the form number, e.g., Purchase Order (PO), form 110.