Governance

University Policy Library - Writing Tips

Information Sheets

A range of information sheets are available to assist with the University Policy Library.

 

Contact

Staff are encouraged to contact the nominated ‘Contact Position’ detailed at the bottom of each individual University Policy where policy-specific information is required. 

For general academic policy related queries, contact the Academic Secretary, Academic Policy Services.

Below are some tips for writing policies. For a comprehensive understanding and the development of specific skills you are strongly encouraged to attend a half-day policy writing staff development workshop .

Use language that reflects the policy’s intent 

Select the words carefully. Words like “should” imply a choice and therefore, its usage is more appropriate in a good practice guide rather than in a policy. For example,

“Faculty and staff should not smoke on University campus”.

This means they should not smoke but will be allowed if they do. The statement also does not address restrictions applicable to students.

“Faculty, staff and students are prohibited from smoking on University campus.”
(better, but could sound more global)

“Smoking is not allowed on University campus.”
(best)

Words like “may” imply a permissible cause of action or discretionary action, whereas the use of words like “must” imply an obligation. For example,

“Types of examinations offered to students may include:

  1. formal University examinations held during the official examination period and administered by Student Administration; or
  2. alternative formal University examinations administered by Student Administration; or
  3. faculty or school examinations held outside the official examination period.”

This creates flexibility for the University, which has the discretion to decide on the type of examination offered to students.

“Types of examinations offered to students must include:

  1. formal University examinations held during the official examination period and administered by Student Administration; or
  2. alternative formal University examinations administered by Student Administration; or
  3. faculty or school examinations held outside the official examination period.”  

This statement does not reflect the intent of the policy principle as it places the University under an obligation to offer all types of examination. It has no discretionary powers.

Use as few words as possible to state the principle 

For example, 

“All University faculty and staff, under the leadership of its officers are obligated to ensure that University funds are used only for mission-related purposes”.

This statement implies that only those “under the leadership” are required to follow the policy.

“Employees must ensure that University funds are used only for mission-related purposes.”

(Alternative statement)

Ensure that simplifying a statement does not alter its meaning

For example,

“All faculty and staff must………..”.

The word “all” is redundant. Simply stating “Faculty and staff” implies all unless an exception is also written.

Use present tense, gender-neutral language, positive tone and write in an active voice

Active voice should be used in policy writing, to provide clear and direct guidance. A passive voice can be confusing. In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action. In a sentence written in the passive voice the subject receives the action. For example,

“A declaration by students that the work submitted for assessment is their own work is required by the Learning Management System process.”

 Passive voice (to be avoided)

“The Learning Management System process requires students to declare that the work submitted for assessment is their own work.”

 Active voice (preferred)

Use tables where appropriate

Use tables to explain complex material, where appropriate.

Lengthy wording (to be avoided):

For University formal exams held in the initial semester, the examination period is held following each semester. The time of the exams is between 8.30am and 6.30pm, from Monday to Saturday. The location of formal exams is generally at the Crawley and Albany campuses. The venue of formal exams is usually on the campus at which the unit was taught.

Table (preferred, where appropriate):

Exam Type

Exam Period

Time

Location

Venue

Initial semester

Following each semester

8:30 – 6:30pm,

Monday to Saturday

Generally Crawley and Albany campuses

Venue on the campus at which the unit was taught

Use lists

Vertical lists highlight a series of requirements or other information in a visually clear way. Use vertical lists to help your user focus on important material.

For example,

“Any change to postgraduate coursework courses must be planned ahead to ensure:

  1. that any necessary action, such as implementing transitional arrangements, are taken to minimise any potential adverse impact on students;
  2. high standards of teaching;
  3. efficient delivery of academic teaching; and
  4. compliance with relevant external or internal legislation or policy.”