Using Different Titles for Policy Instruments

The titles given to both the authorities and the guidance documents must be consistent if they are to be understood.

You often see an organization pressing a number of titles into service, among them

  • Policy
  • Directive
  • Guidelines
  • Guide
  • Standard
  • Rules
  • Protocol
  • Manual
  • Code
  • Scheme
  • Instruction Sheet
  • Catalogue
  • Matrix
  • Handbook
  • Regulations

The nuances between these different types of instruments are lost on most people. The International Standards Organization (ISO) endorses very specific definitions for “policy,” “procedure,” and similar documents, but if your organization has not been using the terminology according to their definitions I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

What matters is that all the documents with the same title word are of the same force. If the Guideline on Contracting is an authority but the Guideline on Hiring is a guidance document, you’re asking for trouble.

Some organizations assign different instrument titles to different audiences; so, for example, “policy” is the title given to an authority directed to high level management while a “scheme” is an authority directed to subject matter experts. Do what works for you; but always maintain the distinction between authorities and guidance documents.

One term in the list above is special, and that is the instrument called a “standard.” You should reserve this title for documents of a very specific nature, to be discussed in an upcoming post.

More Policy Writing Tips


For more information

You’ll find information on writing titles for policy instruments and many related topics in Respectful Policies and Directives, available at any bookstore.

Perfect offers workshops that help you organize your policy instruments. Contact us for details.

Posted in