What Is the Purpose of a Policy Summary?

Elisabeth O'Quinn
Post by Elisabeth O'Quinn
Originally published February 16, 2024, updated February 20, 2024
What Is the Purpose of a Policy Summary?

Have you ever heard of the “hit by the bus” rule?

Interestingly enough, this rule and the purpose of company policies are closely tied together. Among other reasons, you write a policy so business operations can continue if a key employee were to be hit by a bus. Policies protect and (should) help operations run smoothly.

Below is everything you need to know to busproof your company – in other words, everything you need to know about policies, their purpose, and how to write one. 

What Exactly Is a Policy?

A policy is a type of technical document that presents a set of guidelines or rules to govern an organization. Policies can normally be found in an employee handbook but can also be found in an online library like Coca-Cola’s

Think of a policy as a written plan of action. Policies offer general statements to guide all decision-making at a company. They ensure that operations meet daily requirements based on industry regulations. 


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Different types of policies include:

  • Public policy (e.g., governmental ones)
  • Organizational or company policy (e.g., created by individual companies)
  • Functional policy (e.g., departmental ones)
  • Specific policy (e.g., insurance policy)

Your readers will depend on the type of policy, but will likely be multiple ones and different knowledge levels about the topic. That’s why clarity is a key aspect of policy writing. A policy should include clear substance or content and clear language. 

A policy is NOT a how-to document for following the rules – that's a procedure that can be part of a policy. A procedure defines the steps to effectively enact the policy. It outlines who shall do what and when (e.g., The admin assistant will answer the telephone by the fourth ring). 

Policy Examples

Let’s start with a simple example. Say you run a customer-facing business, such as a coffee shop. Your employees will sometimes be exposed to upset customers. You might create a policy or rule as to what to do in this situation: 

  • Policy: Do not confront angry customers.
  • Procedure: The steps to defuse the situation appropriately (e.g., get the manager). 

Another great example: This teleworking policy from Gordon State College outlines the college’s position on working from home. The document starts with the purpose: define the teleworking program (also known as telecommuting) and the guidelines and rules under which it will operate.

Business Policy Summary Example


It then gives a policy statement:  

Policy: Gordon State College allows teleworking on a voluntary basis to employees who fill job classifications/positions that have been designated by the departments as eligible for teleworking. The Gordon State College telework program is an employer option, not an employee right, and is appropriate only when it results in a mutual benefit to both the employee and to the institution.

The document also covers relevant definitions and then procedures (steps to act out the policy).

Why Is Policy Writing Important for Your Company?

Policy writing creates order and structure in a company or organization. Policies state what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable in a workplace, following in line with local, state, and federal regulations. 

Why is this important? Here are the key reasons:

  • Reduces ambiguity and confusion in different workplace situations.  
  • Gives the reason why and helps enforce rules. 
  • Provides consistency, which helps with growth and expansion. 
  • Ensures compliance with laws and minimizes legal risks as codes of practice change. 
  • Gives an efficient and professional framework for business operations and planning.
  • Assists with employee performance reviews. 

Let’s look at the importance of policies in action: 

25-year-old Susan Fowler worked as a software engineer at ride-share company giant Uber. In February 2017, she published an essay, speaking out against the sexual harassment experienced at the company and other misconducts where no rules or protocols were in place. That same year, the CEO resigned due in part to the series of scandals and sexual allegations. The company adopted clear harassment policies as a result. 

In short, policies ensure safety and best practices are understood in the daily life of a company’s operations and activities. They set the standard of behaviors, offering a decision-making framework to ensure fair, rational decisions are made when problems or situations arise. 


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Pros and Cons of Writing a Policy

As with any work document, there are advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few of each with policies: 


  • Policy rules and standards ensure that operations are orderly and fair.
  • Policies are flexible and can be updated as changes occur.
  • They can be vital in legal cases, proving the company followed regulations.
  • Policies are important reference documents when problems arise.


  • Readers can sometimes blindly follow a policy without using common sense.
  • Policies can quickly become outdated and not reflect current standards.
  • Policy writing isn’t cheap. Even if you don’t outsource the writing, you’ll often have to pay for research and legal consultation. 
  • There can be too many policies or conflicting ones, creating confusion. 
  • Policy rules and guidelines don’t always match the actual operations, hindering productivity. 

However, careful research, wording, and internal/external feedback can help you overcome common disadvantages of company policies. 

Getting Started With Policy Writing: How to Prepare

Strong policy writing is an art form, and policies are not a one-size-fits-all. Topic expertise and careful preparation are two critical factors for writing company policies. 

Are you qualified to write the policy? Or can you collaborate with a team of thought experts? A thought expert will have a detailed understanding of the type of policy needed and the processes already in place. For example, a Hand Hygiene policy at a hospital should be written by an Infection Control practitioner who is an expert on the floor. 

If yes, let’s review how you can best prepare to write effective policies within your organization. 

Do's and Don'ts of Policy Writing

Here’s what a good policy should and shouldn’t do:


  • Consider any existing policies on that topic.
  • Be industry and organization-specific. 
  • Protect your organization legally.
  • Follow accreditation standards if your company is accredited.
  • Conduct thorough research and involve stakeholders. 
  • Know your audience and purpose. 
  • Clearly define the what and the why. 
  • Use clear language that anyone can understand.
  • Follow a consistent format. 


  • Overcomplicate with dense, complex language.
  • Include specific names (refer to the role, not the current employee).
  • Be ambiguous with the content and language. 
  • Overlook regulatory and legal requirements.
  • Ignore feedback from stakeholders (i.e., decision-makers), employees, etc. 

Also, don’t simply copy and paste content from an old policy or another company’s or organization. Reusing some information is fine, but this practice can lead to irrelevant and bloated content for the reader. Policies should be specific to your company and match daily operations. 

Guidelines for Writing a Policy

Enough with the theory. Time to get practical with actual policy writing. 

Policy Writing Tips and Best Practices

Best Practice #1: 

Remember that the audience or reader should guide any policy. You want to tell the reader what you’re doing and why you’re doing something a certain way to help ensure compliance.

The reader will depend on the policy, but communicate to them four important answers within your policy:

  • What is the policy?
  • Why does the policy exist?
  • When does the rule apply?
  • Who does it apply to? Who does it cover?

Say that you work at a prestigious financial magazine. You don’t want employees showing up in ripped jeans and sandals to work. You create a dress code policy. 

Example: All employees are required to wear formal business attire at the office. We regularly meet with executives and high-level positions and always want to communicate a professional image. 

This example includes the what, why, when, and who. You could then outline what qualifies as business formal attire (the how) and the consequences for not adhering to the policy. 

Sometimes, specific positions and work will require policies that won’t apply to everyone. Tailor the policy to the target reader. For example, you might assign a mileage reimbursement policy to sales reps since they’re the only ones traveling in their personal vehicles. 


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Best Practice #2:

Ensure compliance through the right format. A policy is useless if employees aren’t reading and adhering to the document. 

The traditional policy format is a thick policy manual and employee handbook. Before more documents were digital, employees would sign a piece of paper to show that they had read and understood the policy. But this formatting makes it difficult to prove if someone has actually read everything.

We recommend publishing online so the manual can be accessed by computer or mobile device, such as through policy management software. You could publish through an internal portal or even on your website. Some systems show you how long someone has spent reading a policy. Readers can also decline or approve policies. 

Best Practice #3:

Make sure workplace policies are kept up to date. Changes constantly occur in an organization, such as by-laws or the executive team. Changes also occur outside the company, including social norms and culture change. Review your policy at least once every year (we recommend twice a year).

If there are major changes, update the policy. Have stakeholders and employees review and acknowledge the changes. 

Format of a policy document

Policy format standardization ensures consistency across company policies. Typically, the policy format should include: 

  • The correct logo and brand colors. 
  • Policy name and number.  
  • A legal disclaimer in the policy's footer.  

It can help to create a format template to follow for all policies (just make sure not to blindly follow the template – think critically about the content). Whatever format you follow, incorporate headings and bullets. These elements help the reader skim and easily digest the information.

Use a standardized format for any policy so readers can quickly scroll to the information they need. 

Design and Layout of a Policy Document

As mentioned, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” with a policy. The structure or the organization of the sections will depend on the policy type, but the overall layout will look similar. 

Below is an example structure for an accident reporting company policy: 

  • Policy brief & purpose
  • Scope (who the policy affects)
  • Policy statement and elements (what should be reported)
  • Procedure for reporting
  • Disciplinary consequences

Check out these examples to inspire the design and layout of your policy document: 

Read more: Guide to Strong Policy Writing

Writing Style for a Policy

Use precise words and short sentences. No need to use fancy words in a policy. Write in easy-to-understand language and short sentences. Hemingwayapp.com is a site that helps you to write like Hemingway. Also, avoid jargon and spell out acronyms. 

Write in the active voice. Active voice is more engaging than passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence is the doer of the action (e.g., "all employees must adhere to these steps"). In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is what's being acted upon (e.g., "these steps must be adhered to by all employees"). 

Follow a style guide. A style guide helps you write in a particular style. It provides a set of standards or writing rules/recommendations for the tone, grammar, and structure of a technical document. If your company doesn't already follow a particular one (e.g., AP Stylebook), here's a list of technical writing style guides to consider. 

Read more: What is Plain Language?How to Write a Policy for Your Business and Employees

Policy writing should not be based on the personal preferences of a department head or management, for example. Instead, policy writing should incorporate legal considerations, what’s best for the company as a whole, and ramifications. 

Below are steps to write a strong policy tailored to your company. 

Step 1: Perform internal research

Your first step is to identify the need for a particular policy. 

  • Find thought experts and an overall team to collaborate on the policy.  
  • Review your company’s operations, responsibilities, and activities. 
  • Interview employees to better understand the current environment and ensure your understanding isn’t based on assumptions.
  • Look at any existing policies to see what’s currently being required. 

As external research, review new compliance or regulatory issues that will require new policies or revisions to existing ones. 

Step 2: Identify the policies you want to create

Create a list of policies needed based on your research. Rather than tackling them all at once, determine a policy schedule with an order and dates to be completed. Order from “Most Important” to “Least Important.” 

Also, for each policy, write down the target reader and what you want them to know or do. As an illustration, let’s go back to the dress code policy example: 

  • Who is my reader? My reader includes all staff members at the company. They are knowledgeable about our focus on professionalism with daily company activities, but attire currently ranges from formal business attire to very informal (e.g., T-shirt and jeans). Some members might be frustrated by the new policy, so a clear explanation as to why will be important.
  • What do I want them to know or do? I want the reader to understand what our dress code policy is, why we’re enforcing it (e.g., to match our client base), and for them to follow the standards. 

This audience analysis will guide your policy. We also recommend determining the best delivery strategy at this step. Will this policy be in a printed employee handbook? Will it live online? Choose a channel that will be easy for the reader to use and find information. 


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Step 3: Include the key elements in the policy

With your reader and purpose in hand, generate the content or elements that will go into the policy. This step is about planning. 

Don’t jump into drafting. Instead, write down ideas and begin organizing the information. Anticipate any questions from the reader and what could go wrong. Once you have your content, place everything into a clear, logical order (an outline can be very helpful). 

Include elements like:

  • Title. What is the name of the policy? A title should be clear, short, and informative. 
  • Summary and policy purpose. Summarize the reasons behind the policy with intended outcomes and goals. Let the reader know what the policy aims to achieve. 
  • The scope. Share who the policy applies to. The “who” should be attached to specific roles, not an individual.  
  • The policy statement. Detail what the policy is, which role or location it covers, and when it’s applicable. For example, articulate whether the policy is a general rule or related to a specific task (e.g., responding to customer questions). 
  • Other details or definitions. Give any additional details (e.g., a list of what qualifies as formal business attire or special cases when the employee can use their cell phones). Include any definitions related to the policy if needed by the reader. 
  • Disciplinary consequences. Let the reader know what will happen if the rules aren’t followed. If you’re writing a dress code policy, outline what you are going to do if, for example, someone shows up in shorts and sandals. You might state that the employee will receive a written reprimand or be sent home.

Discuss your plan or policy outline with any decision-makers to get a consensus on the content before you begin drafting. 

Step 4: Create content for each element of the policy

Time to draft. Follow the KISS acronym – keep it simple, stupid. You can be simple without being simplistic. Keep your reader’s knowledge level in mind because they will be the ones implementing the document. 

Using your plan as a guide, write a policy that is detailed but short. If you find the policy is growing longer, you might need to create a separate policy to help with brevity. 

Write the document so the reader has no problem interpreting and applying. Here’s an example of wordy writing and clear writing. Notice the difference?

  • Wordy writing: "All sales reps are required to ensure that mileage reimbursement only applies to the use of their personal vehicles during client work trips.”
  • Clear writing: “Sales reps must ensure that mileage reimbursement is only used when personal vehicles are driven for client work trips. 

Hint: Be broad in your wording and use generic terms (e.g., “sales CRM” vs. “Zendesk”). You can be more detailed in the procedures. Also, carefully consider your word choice. For example, “must” implies a requirement, while “should” indicates a choice. 

Step 5: Add more information to clarify the policy for stakeholders

Once you have the first draft, go back through it to check for holes in the content. A gap analysis can be helpful. Solicit feedback and input from stakeholders. 

Step 6: Revise, review, and format the policy

Edit the policy again. Also, have someone else read it. Your policy team is crucial, but also a licensed professional, consultant, or attorney with knowledge of your industry and regulations.

Based on their feedback, revise and edit again. Proofread as a final step. Run through a tool like Grammarly to avoid grammatical mistakes and errors. 

Step 7: Approve and publish

Send the final draft to appropriate stakeholders to obtain approval. When we say appropriate, determine leadership that makes the most sense to sign off on the document. For example, a manager might approve a policy rather than the CEO if they’re closely tied to the particular operation.  

Once approved, make a plan to publish, introduce, explain to, and train all staff on the policy. Include training on how to explain to clients when the changes affect them. 

Read more: How to Write an Effective Policies and Procedures Manual

Achieve Strong Policy Writing 

Policy writing doesn’t stop there. Your policy should be a living document. Monitor its effectiveness regularly and revise as needed. Some policies will need more revising than others, depending on law and social changes. 

Busproof your company or organization with a strong, well-written policy. If you’d like to learn more about technical writing, check out our Technical Writing Foundations course. This course guides you through planning, drafting, and editing your technical documents. 

Elisabeth O'Quinn
Post by Elisabeth O'Quinn
Originally published February 16, 2024, updated February 20, 2024
Elisabeth has a unique combination of business and business writing acumen, with an extensive background in writing, editing, and content marketing management. She has expertise in both business and business writing. She has worked as a business writer and content writer, creating blog articles, reports, presentations, and editing business documents. She has supported many of our clients to rave reviews of her instruction and writing feedback, including California Water, Rohde & Schwarz, Morgan Stanley, the U.S. Army, the USDA, and many more. She holds a B.S. in Business & Economic Development from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina. Throughout her education, writing has been her passion. She loves sharing her skills. Elisabeth lives in Georgia with her cat and rescue pup. In addition to writing, she loves traveling with her twin sister, learning German, and creating watercolor prints.