Resources for writing and revising policies, procedures, & regulations?
September 18, 2014 11:53 PM   Subscribe

I work in state government and my position may soon shift to policy analysis, which would include writing and revising policies, procedures, and regulations. I have plenty of experience researching regulations, but not as much in the areas of writing and revising. Can anyone recommend any resources (books or websites) which may be helpful for this type of writing? Thank you!

Resources for technical writing might be helpful, but it's not exactly what I'm looking for. This comes close.

Additional info, if needed, per the job description....

"Review and process proposed legislation. Research information presented, determine impact, organize findings, and prepare detailed written analyses. Brief management, division administration and stakeholders on assigned legislation, monitor legislation, and prepare updated analyses."

I am a very good writer, but I need help with being concise and proper formatting. Any handbook that can help in this area would be awesome.
posted by onecircleaday to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I know someone who is very experienced in this area and could consult for hire, if that's an option.
posted by univac at 12:29 AM on September 19, 2014

From the job description, it sounds like you are going to be just analyzing legislation, policy, and regulations, not writing it. So the National Archives guide doesn't seem applicable.

Check out the Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Office, Government Accountability Office reports as models. Their reports are usually very very good.
Also, if you can get access, CQ Roll Call has some of the best bill/regulation analysis reports I have ever used. To the point, good summaries, and well written in general.

It may be worth brushing up on policy analysis guides, such as from the big public policy schools. There are tons online: This came up immediately when I did a quick search.
posted by troytroy at 12:49 AM on September 19, 2014

Best answer: Having spent some time reading both state and federal statute and policy, I can tell you that the quality of legislation at the state level is really variable: almost every state's legislature is a part- time body and only have a few people to assist with drafting. And of course, there are a number of reasons why legislation is proposed and only one of them is because "there oughta be a law." I assume you work for a state agency that is probably both "playing offense" (occasionally proposing legislation and perhaps writing rules) and "playing defense" (impact analysis of legislation that is being proposed about your agency)? And that the legislation is both at the state and federal level?

One of the good things about working at the state level is that there are 50 states and 6 territories to compare against. Your agency may belong to a national association of states (for whatever your specific governmental function is) that has a few analysts and convenes workgroups to do exactly the kind of analysis you are describing. Other good resources for policy analysis and finding out what other states are doing are the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governor's Association. Also, it is no secret that many bills are either model legislation being pushed in multiple states at the same time, or at least contain language borrowed from other states that have already passed something, so Google is your friend to figure out where a piece of legislation came from and if other people in another state have already been looking at the issue.
posted by kovacs at 5:45 AM on September 19, 2014

Best answer: Will you be a policy analyst/advisor? I'm a policy advisor in the Ontario government (Canada) so I don't know if my experience will align with yours since our governments are structured differently, so FWIW:

Your job description includes "process proposed legislation" and "monitor legislation" yet your post says that you'll be writing/revising regulations. From my experience, our lawyers work with lawyers in the attorney general's ministry (department) to draft legs and regs; policy advisors don't do that.

Aside from that, in terms of writing policy materials (briefing notes, policy papers, option papers, briefing decks, strategies, frameworks), each ministry I've been in (four altogether) has their own templates and and all I've done is look in the shared drive for previous material in which to follow those templates.

Once you've got your templates, it just comes down to plain writing. First and foremost, tell a story. Each line of bulleted information follows the one before in a logical sequence; this is subjective of course, but there is an art. Also, know your audience. What does your manager vs. director vs. more senior management need to know? Higher-ups need higher-level information and don't need to know all the details.

My workplace has courses and resources for plain writing and how to write briefing materials so hopefully yours will too. I found the site via your link so I would poke around there. E.g. 1, 2. (Plain language is a big deal for our government too; I'm sure it was inspired by the US feds' work on it. :)
posted by foxjacket at 8:49 AM on September 19, 2014

Response by poster: I think foxjacket has it. When I asked the interview panel the job looks like day-to-day, they said research and writing. I assumed that legal drafts the regulations (common sense tells me that's a lawyer's job, too complex for an analyst) but the job description states the following:

The analyst… will perform full journey level analytical duties .... Analytical and subject matter expertise in mental health issues and treatment will be provided by this position to appropriately guide policy within the Department.. The analyst may function independently and/or as a team leader/member in the conduct of policy and administrative support…. The analyst is required to develop and write regulations, policies, procedures, controlled correspondence, bill analysis, and formal communications independently and with other program sections.

45% Research, analyze, develop, and revise regulations, policies and procedures to meet program, legislative, and/or stakeholder needs …..This includes working collaboratively with a diverse group of internal/external stakeholders which include providers and advocacy groups, the Office of Regulation Development, and the Office of Administrative Law.

30% Review and process proposed legislation .... Research information presented, determine impact, organize findings, and prepare detailed written analyses. Brief management, division administration and stakeholders on assigned legislation, monitor legislation, and prepare updated analyses. Work collaboratively with all internal stakeholders, including the Legal Division and the Office of Legislation.

10% Assist in the maintenance and updating of the Division Manual of Policies and Procedures and providing technical assistance ..... Conducting and distilling research on existing policies to determine currency of material. Processing requests for changes to policies and procedures. Research, collect data, and prepare recommendations on various issues/special projects to present to management, stakeholders, providers, advocacy groups and other Departments.

So... I think foxjacket and kovacs are right in with regard to the plain writing and analysis part - but I'm not actually sure whether the "writing regs" part is really writing them (I doubt it), or revising them (possibly), or something else. It makes sense to me that as kovacs said, I'd be working with templates. The policy analysis presentation that troytroy posted looks helpful. I also found this book that may be a good place to start. Sounds like what would be most helpful at this point is information on policy analysis - Thank you everyone for your insights!
posted by onecircleaday at 10:10 AM on September 19, 2014

Bryan Garner is a great resource for all kinds of legal writing.
Thomas Murawski: Writing Readable Regulations
Center for Plain Language
posted by kbar1 at 11:35 PM on September 19, 2014

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