How to Write Policy: A Practical Guide


Create a Preliminary Outline

A preliminary outline gives you direction so you can draft your policy more effectively. Use the Preliminary Outline resource to help get you started.

Be Aware of the Scope and Extent of Other SUU Policies

Be informed of the scope and content of other SUU policies. Consider revising an existing policy to add additional information or clarification instead of proposing a new policy.

Drafting the Policy

Use the Policy Template Format and Style Guide

Use the Policy Template and Style Guide to ensure consistency in theme, structure, and format throughout all of SUU’s policies.

Be Consistent Among Policies

When referencing other SUU policies or using language or terms defined in other policies, use language that is consistent with that found in those policies. Cross-reference to the primary policy where possible. 

Example: In Section III References, all other SUU policies must be referred to and formatted as Southern Utah University Policy X.X Policy Title.

Communicate the Purpose With the Title

Write the title of the policy to reflect the policy’s key purpose. Be sure to write it in as few words as possible, but also keep the language as simple as possible.
Example: Use “Use and Care of Campus Flora” instead of “Use and Care of Campus Trees, Bushes, Shrubs, Flowers, Grass, and Other Perennials and Annuals.”

State the Policy Purpose Clearly in the Purpose Section

State the purpose of the policy directly and succinctly. Do not include policy mandates in this section.
Example: If the purpose of the policy is to implement a Board of Higher Education / USHE policy, the Purpose should state: “To implement Board of Higher Education policy – [insert official policy title in italics]...."

Define Important Terms and Acronyms

Define key terms and be consistent with those terms throughout the policy. Capitalize the defined terms throughout the text. Use definitions that are consistent with defined terms in other SUU policies and incorporate definitions by reference from other primary policies, instead of restating the definition. Use acronyms after spelling them out completely and identified in the first use.
Example: “Southern Utah University (SUU)” and “Utah System of Higher Education (USHE)” after which SUU and USHE are used throughout the policy. 

Use an Active Voice With Third-Person Language

Use an active voice where possible. This helps people understand who is to do what. It helps direct behavior and to create clear responsibilities. Avoid using “you” and “I” language, and instead use titles or names of groups wherever possible.

Specify who the policy is targeting: employees, faculty, officers, exempt professionals, students, and/or classified staff.
Example: Say “Eligible faculty will submit the form…” instead of “The form will be submitted by you….” or only saying “The form is submitted to the Provost’s Office.”


Keep It Concise

Be crisp and to the point. Use the fewest words to convey the most meaning. Use incorporated forms to set out steps such as approval process to decrease the policy language needed.
Example: Use “Employee Grievances” instead of “Process for Submitting and Responding to Grievances and Issues from SUU Employees”


Plain language to include in the policy.

Excess Words Plain Alternatives
Is able to  can
Be responsible for must
In accordance with  under
In the event that  if
With regard to  out
A sufficient number of enough
In order to to
As a result of because, because of, since
As well as Also, and


Avoid Using Names of People or Items and Avoid Using Gender-Based Pronouns

Use generic titles rather than names of specific items or people. Use gender-neutral pronouns.
Example: Say “The Dean of Students shall…” instead of “Dean Jane Doe shall….” Use “they” even when referring to an individual when a title cannot be used. But ensure clarity in who "they" refers to.


Use Language That Communicates Requirements

Use language that reflects when a step, process, approval, or the like is mandatory.  Ensure the language is written in a way it can be enforced.
Example: Words like ‘should’ and ‘may’ imply a choice, while ‘must’ or ‘shall’ reflect a requirement.





Feedback and Approval

Seek Feedback

Seek feedback from your diversity officer, the Policy office within the Provost’s Office, the Office of Legal Affairs, and other relevant offices and departments. This feedback can create more inclusive, enforceable, and robust policies.

Understand the Approval Process

Understanding what needs to happen next will help you plan your timeline better. Please review the  summary of the approval process and  the Policy on Policies.