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Board decision documents give directors the information and information they require to interpret, shape, and make decisions which will influence an organisation’s destiny. They could also be the source of disputes and legal action if they’re inadequately written or contain incorrect or inadequate information. The importance of top quality decision papers cannot be overstated.

But what are the essentials to writing effective board documents? Managing the flow of information is essential. This means managing the amount of information provided to a board, as well as the way in which it is presented. Board papers must be comprehensive yet concise, and clearly communicate a clear call to action.

The main challenge for writers is avoiding the temptation to add too much details in a piece of writing. This can take away valuable time for the board and distract from the message of the paper. The other challenge is to be able to write the paper so that it can be easily understood by all members of a committee, including those who have no or limited knowledge of the subject that the paper is addressing. A formal board paper process that has clear guidelines and an approach to examining the papers before they are given out can be very useful.

Using a formal business writing style and using plain English is essential to ensure that the information contained in the board papers is accessible to everyone on the board. This is especially important when the board is comprised of members with different backgrounds, like those from finance and marketing. A glossary of acronyms and terms is also useful. It is also beneficial to receive feedback from peers and comments on the paper. This will allow new eyes to look over the papers and find any confusion.