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1. Purpose. The purpose of a submission is to seek a decision or agreement to a proposed course of action on a particular issue:

a. You may be asking for a decision on a major policy issue or to start a military operation. Or you may simply want to be sure that someone is aware of a plan or event, and agrees with your proposal to handle it.

b. There are several options you can choose to adapt the submission format to suit the recipient's requirement or your purpose.


The first 3 things any reader wants to know are ‘What’s it all about?’, ‘What do I have to do?, and ‘When do I have to do it by?’. Once you have answered these key questions, set out the essential background information, arguments and counter-arguments involved. This approach makes it easier to understand what follows. It also helps the reader decide whether the submission is important or urgent (not always the same thing), or whether to read the rest!

Keep your work as short and focused as possible, and include only the main facts. Use headings to clearly identify the different parts. If you need to include supporting material, provide it in annexes to the submission.

Structure a submission as follows:

a. Summary section. The paragraphs entitled Issue, Recommendation(s) and Timing are called the ‘summary’ section. Taken together, the summary section concisely covers the key elements of the submission as a whole, and stand alone:

(1) Issue. In the first paragraph, with the heading ‘Issue’, set out the matter being addressed in one or 2 short sentences.

(2) Recommendation(s). In the second paragraph, with the heading ‘Recommendation(s)’, set out the essence of your recommendations. Make clear to whom you are making the recommendation. Make clear, too, whether you are simply giving information (to ‘take note’), or whether you want support or a decision.

(3) Timing.1 In the third paragraph, with the heading ‘Timing’, state by when a decision is required, from whom, why the timescale has been set and the implications if the deadline were to be missed.

b. Background (the main text). If you have only one section for the main text, use the group heading ‘Background’. You could split the main text into more than one section, using apt group headings. Include only essential background information.

(1) Set out clearly the argument leading to the recommendations. Give the reader a balanced view by including important counter-arguments or dissenting views.

(2) Make sure you clearly spell out the implications of the recommendation(s), particularly financial, industrial, political or policy implications.

(3) Use a clear, direct and active style of writing.

c. Consultation. Consultation is essential to making sure that a submission covers all aspects of a subject clearly. You must consult with all those who have a direct interest in the issue with which you are dealing. Sometimes you will raise matters that cut across more than one area of your department, or which affect the work of other departments. If this is so, in the main text, state explicitly that all relevant departments have been consulted and whether or not they agree with the advice you are presenting.