What is a general word or phrase that could encompass the class of documents called standards (i.e. ISO, ANSI, BS, etc.), legislation, laws, handbooks, style guides, manuals, etc.? Basically, all prescriptive written things that tell people what to do.

  • The problem is that you're combining standards with laws. Rules and regulations wouldn't encompass ANSI, ISO, style guides, etc. Standards wouldn't encompass statutes/legislation.
    – TimR
    Dec 4, 2014 at 13:36
  • Amphiteóth is correct re "business" and "compliance" :) that's exactly what I'm aiming at here. Regulations it is, I reckon.
    – Sam Wilson
    Dec 4, 2014 at 23:15

6 Answers 6


I think regulations is a general term: (from TFD)

  • a rule, principle, or condition that governs procedure or behaviour
  • (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a governmental or ministerial order having the force of law
  • The only reservation I have with 'regulations' is that here in Australia a regulation is actually also a piece of government legislation, and so people get confused. Still, it is the broadest term I reckon. Thanks!
    – Sam Wilson
    Dec 5, 2014 at 0:45

How about regulations and guidelines?

The 'regulations' component covers those codified provisions (both legislative and otherwise) which must be obeyed, and the 'guidelines' element covers those which are merely recommended, advisory or informational.


Normative instruments. Usually legal instruments, international legal instruments etc. An instrument is a formal document; it is a means to an end. Normative means norm/standard-setting.


Protocols A set of rules describing correct conduct and procedures in formal situations.


I'd go with "governance".

It's widely used in Information Technology settings, as an example.


I would use "standard operating procedures"

  • 2
    Welcome to EL&U. Your answer would be improved by explaining why you would use it; an ISO standard or a FINRA rule is not really a "standard operating procedure" as I use the term. I encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance.
    – choster
    Dec 4, 2014 at 18:12

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