Vol. 46, No. 7
Packaging Your Policies
Follow these tips for writing a clear and concise employee handbook.
- Use short words, sentences and paragraphs.
- Break the copy into short, readable segments.
- Avoid stilted, overly formal language.
- Avoid buzzwords, jargon and acronyms.
- Highlight important information with bullet points or bold print.
- Prefer the active voice. The company supplies your safety glasses is more robust and concise than the same sentence in the passive voice: Your safety glasses will be supplied by the company.
- Don’t be afraid to use contractions and personal pronouns.
- Use concise rather than wordy phrases: for example, during instead of during the course of.
- Avoid redundancies such as new innovations, advance plan and actual experience.
- When applicable, write in the imperative. It’s clear, concise and effective: Submit your expense reports weekly. Wear your badge at all times.
- Be consistent. If you begin addressing employees as “you,” continue it throughout the handbook. If you capitalize one department name, do so for each department.
- Be selective in your choice of words, particularly when discussing consequences. Don’t say “will” when you actually mean “may.”
- Don’t equivocate or diminish unpopular policies. Be straightforward and tell it like it is.