Writing the Rules

This article was first posted on our blog on 23/05/2010. For this reason, the information may be outdated and no longer reliable/correct.


Congratulations! You’ve decided to take a step into the forum administration world. Or, perhaps, you’re a current admin looking for tips to help your community. Actually, I think most of you will benefit from reading this article. However, this article will take a standpoint from writing new rules, not revising old ones. Without further ado, let’s discuss how to make your rules fair without being to lenient or harsh.

First, when writing your rules, remember that if a member is joining, they will have at least some brainpower. (Although it may not always seem this way!) They can interpret things. This is why it’s in many cases better to do things in a general way versus a specific, precise point approach. For example, take this pseudo-quote,

“Rules:
1. No adult images.
2. No links to adult sites.
3. No quotes from adult sites.
4. All content must be appropriate for a 13+ audience.”

While those are some solid rules, it’s confusing and repetitive. Nobody wants to read a rule page that’s over a page long. (That’s why it’s not rule pages!) They should typically be short, and to the point. You could group all those rules above into one, “No adult/non-13+ appropriate posts.” rule. You never want to make something longer or more confusing than it should be.

Next, remember that all is not white or black. For example, if you having a no bumping rule, sometimes bumping may be necessary. (Ex. An urgent issue, a topic that needs staff attention, etc.) Remember to allow for these exceptions, and let your moderators know. You don’t want to let people get away with things you disallow, but you also want to allow some leniency with the rules.
Third, even after grouping things together, if you still find yourself needing to add a rule that’s similar to another rule, don’t do it like this:

“1. Don’t post poll-like topics around the forum.
2. You may post poll-like topics in the general chat area, but only if they encourage discussion.”
It’s silly looking. Do it like this:
“1. Don’t post poll-like topics around the forum.
a. You may post poll-like topics in the general chat area, but only if they encourage discussion.”

This is the best approach to showing similar rules. Always make sure the main rule is the number, and the lesser rules are the letters.

Fourth, proof-read, proof-read, proof-read! N0b0dee wntz 2 reed rulz ritten l1k3 dis. Use proper English, and always make sure what you say is 100% readable by everyone, and follows grammar and spelling rules. When in doubt, spellcheck! Have somebody else read them over. Also, don’t post in ugly colors. The rules should be in the text colour that’s default. Nobody should have to squint to read your rules.

Moving along, make rules that are appropriate for your forum. For example, if you’re running a site for mainly kid video games, then allowing cursing may not be such a good idea. On a site for mature (17+) games, it may be more acceptable. If your forum is a serious business forum, than perhaps allowing spammy poll topics or joke threads should be disallowed. Think about your audience. What age are you appealing to most? Is your forum more business-like or is it a chat forum? Think about these things. Look at other forum’s rules (but DON’T copy them!); take a look at what they allow and don’t allow. Make your rules what you wish, and don’t give into members’ demands. There will always be goofballs posting stupid stuff and wanting it allowed. There might be even a group of them, don’t give into them. They should respect staff and the rules, and if they can’t learn to, maybe you don’t want them there anyway. However, always keep your feedback forum open for discussion about the rules, as minor changes that are good CAN come from the community.

Finally, always post your moderation policy. Spell out clearly what will happen for each rule broken (again, noting that there may be some gray-space), and what each punishment will do. If a certain offence could get you banned on first break of that rule, you better let members know that. Make sure the punishments make sense. (For example, one spam/off-topic post should not have the same punishment as posting adult images.) Along with this, provide a list of moderators and admins, so users know who to PM/contact if they wish to talk to someone.

In conclusion, rules are a vital part of any forum. You want them to be clear and understandable, while remembering that sometimes leniency must be given. Your rules should be professionally written, and include a solid moderation policy and list of staff. If you do this, many members will be much happier with your forum.

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