The second critical success factor in Policy Consolidation: Seven Critical Success Factors is to develop a defined style for what the policy should look like. Style, in this instance is defined as “a distinctive appearance, determined by the principles according to which the policy is designed.”

Style over substance? Hardly.  With policy consolidation, the substance of the policy has already been developed. The style is how you want it to appear to your stakeholders.  Policy is often dense and hard to follow. The style should be designed to help clarify the policy by presenting it in a clear, logical and easy-to-read format.

A Table of Contents (TOC) is the first step to conceptualizing the style of your condensed policy.  The number of levels in your TOC will give you an idea of how complicated your policy is for readers to consume.The TOC can be codified in Word using the Style function. The Style function contains predefined document styles and customized styles can also be developed. The standard Style incorporates nine levels of content, and there is an option to hide levels in the published TOC.

Once defined, the style format can be made into a template for the condensed policy. This way, multiple subject matter experts (SMEs) can work on the policy simultaneously while minimizing formatting issues on the back-end.

 A few questions to consider when determining style:

  • What will each level in your TOC represent? Will you have chapters, sections, books, etc.? 
  • What hierarchy will be used to identify TOC level? Alpha characters, numbers, Roman numerals, all of the above? 
  • Are there mandates from the legal department? Does enforcement require levels of specificity?
  • What information will the headers and footers contain?  Can you use them to provide a guide for the reader as to where they are in the policy?
  • Is your policy 508 compliant? All government policy must be 508 compliant so make sure your font size is large enough and your charts and tables have the proper captioning.

The goal is to create a policy that is easy to follow and easy to maintain. For policy and other formal documents, style matters!

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