Writing a standard requires careful planning, clear communication, and attention to detail. Whether you’re creating a standard for a specific industry, a process, or a technology, following best practices can greatly enhance the effectiveness and acceptance of that standard. In this article, we’re sharing seven tips on how to write a world class standard.
What Is a Standard?
A standard is a documented set of guidelines, specifications, or criteria that define how something should be done, built, or operated. Standards are important because they ensure safe business practices and operations, promote quality, drive innovation, and improve efficiency and productivity in workplaces.
Seven Tips for Writing a Standard
1. Clearly Define the Scope and Objectives
Setting the scope and objectives of a standard is a critical initial step in the writing process. The scope defines the boundaries and coverage of the standard, and the objectives outline the intended purpose and outcomes. Here are some tips to help you effectively define the scope and objectives of a standard:
● Determine the specific area or topic that the standard will address. Be specific and concise in describing the subject matter to avoid ambiguity and ensure a focused approach.
● Identify the primary audience or stakeholders who will use or be affected by the standard. Understand their needs, requirements, and expectations.
● Engage key stakeholders, including industry experts, practitioners, regulators, and end users, in the scoping process.
● Conduct a thorough review of existing standards, guidelines, regulations, and best practices related to the subject matter.
2. Use Clear and Concise Language
To ensure that the intended audience understands and interprets the requirements and guidelines easily, using clear and concise language is essential when you’re writing a standard. The following are several ways to use clear and concise language in a standard:
● Clearly define key terms and concepts in the standard and use them consistently to maintain clarity and avoid confusion. Consider creating a dedicated section or glossary to provide definitions for specialized terminology.
● Write in the active voice to enhance clarity and directness. The active voice makes it clear who’s responsible for an action. For example, instead of saying It is recommended, say The standard recommends.
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● When dealing with complex concepts or procedures, break them down into smaller, manageable parts. Use bullet points or step-by-step instructions to provide clear guidance and make it easier for readers to follow the standard and understand it.
● Incorporate visual aids, such as diagrams, charts, tables, or illustrations, to supplement the text.
3. Structure the Standard Appropriately
Organize the standard in a logical and structured manner. For example, use headings, subheadings, and numbered sections to enhance readability and navigation. Consider including an introduction, a definitions section, a requirements or guidelines section, and any necessary annexes or references.
4. Be Specific and Detailed
Provide specific and detailed requirements or guidelines to leave little room for interpretation. Include measurable criteria when applicable to facilitate evaluation and compliance. Additionally, you might want to include step-by-step instructions or procedures for specific processes with expected outcomes.
5. Involve Stakeholders
You should also engage relevant stakeholders throughout the writing process. Seek their expertise, feedback, and perspectives. Involving stakeholders early can increase acceptance and promote the adoption of the standard.
6. Ensure Consistency and Accuracy
Consistency in terminology, formatting, and style throughout is important to maintain the standard’s credibility, effectiveness, and usability. To accomplish this, establish a clear style guide at the beginning of the writing process, use standardized terminology throughout the standard, and use reliable sources.
7. Revise, Edit, and Proofread
Revising, editing, and proofreading will be ongoing throughout the writing process. Continuously review and revise the standard based on feedback, changing industry practices, emerging technologies, and regulatory updates. While proofreading, double-check that you’ve used all terms consistently in the standard and ensure that grammar, spelling, and punctuation follow standard English guidelines.
Remember, writing a standard requires expertise and careful consideration. If possible, consult with professionals in the field or seek guidance from recognized standardization organizations to ensure that your standard meets industry expectations and effectively addresses the intended objectives.
If you’re interested in learning more about business writing practices, check out our Business Writing page.