How to Write Rules that People Want to Follow

How to Write Rules That People Want to Follow

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Are Your Policies Still Worded The Way They Were 20 Years Ago?

Often organizations claim to hold “respect for others” as a core value, but when you look at their policy documents, the story is different. Whether they call them “policies,” “standards,” or simply “rules,” too often they sound like a sergeant barking orders at the troops. That tone of voice might have been acceptable in the past but it is not effective in today’s workplace.

As you update your corporate, administrative, and operational policies to meet changing times, this book invites you to rethink how you draft rules. It shows you how to

  • organize and reduce the length of policy instruments
  • sound strict without sounding dictatorial or combative
  • eliminate negative messaging
  • choose words that encourage compliance, and
  • reduce the time required for drafting and approval.

Employees and customers expect to be spoken to with respect. Poorly-written rules reflect badly on your organization, even when they exist only as the remnants of a culture your organization had in the past.

Well-written rules invite engagement. They are positive and helpful, focusing on targets and collaboration rather than prohibitions and punishments. A few improvements can make your policies easier to follow, enforce, and audit.


  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 - The Costs of Bad Rules
  • Chapter 2 - Policy Basics
  • Chapter 3 - Policy Instruments
  • Chapter 4 - Organizing Authorities
  • Chapter 5 - Policy Statements
  • Chapter 6 - Promoting Respect
  • Chapter 7 - Being Helpful
  • Chapter 8 - Must, May, and Should
  • Chapter 9 - Standards
  • Chapter 10 - Codes of Conduct
  • Chapter 11 - Packaging
  • Chapter 12 - Drafting Tips