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Topic 8: Writing in Plain English, Part 1

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In general, DPKO/DFS discourages the use of the words “must” and “will,” except in instances of absolute imperative. Rarely, if ever, should you use these terms in policy documents and never in SOPs or guidelines.

The word “shall” also implies a certain level of demand or command and should only appear in policy documents and SOPs, not guidelines. Even in policy documents, use “shall” sparingly.

Overuse of these terms undermines their impact in those rare cases when they are truly needed.

Remember, in most situations, guidance should encourage certain behaviors and not impose it.