I'm looking for a substitute word or phrase for "rules list." I find this phrase has a key problem: it carries heavy bureaucratic or procedural connotations, and can dissuade people from joining the discussion.

No matter how it's phrased, a "Hey, mind reading the rules first?" carries such a connotation, and I'd like to be rid of it. However, it still needs to communicate the idea that it's a document you need to read, so phrases like "help document" or "FAQ" are out - those imply that you consult them when needed for reference.

Is there a good substitute for "rules" that implies it's not some procedural/formal/bureaucratic process, but also implies it's still necessary to read?

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    Guideline(s) sounds less bureaucratic, but it will depend on how you define "bureaucratic". – user140086 Dec 27 '15 at 7:02
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    Are you enforcing everyone to read it or is it just suggested reading? If you are enforcing it, then it is procedural/formal/bureaucratic. If it is simply suggested reading then, "suggested reading", "getting started", "preliminary information", "site introduction" etc would work. – Jim Dec 27 '15 at 7:11
  • You must read our site guide before proceeding... – Jim Dec 27 '15 at 7:13
  • Hrrrm. Good points. On reflection, I think this says more about my uncertainty over what purpose the document serves rather than uncertainty over terminology. – user50519 Dec 27 '15 at 7:19
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    @Jim beat me to the point, but yeah — if you can require people to read your document, then it is bureaucratic and you're clearly able to set the rules, so shying away from that is not only unnecessary, it can come off as insincerely casual, or worse actively disingenuous. And if telling people there are rules they need to follow to join a discussion will dissuade them from participating, I question whether they'd have contributed anything useful anyway. (See, currently in Hot Meta, "What can we do to make this site more 'intimidating'?") – FeRD Dec 27 '15 at 7:50

Anything which is going to be enforced is going to seem at least somewhat oppressive but perhaps some options are better than others.

My opinion is that code of conduct is a relatively nice alternative though. I think it sounds relatively genteel at least. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus defines it as:

A set of ​rules about how to ​behave and do ​business with other ​people:

The ​pharmaceutical industry's ​voluntary ​code of ​conduct says ​doctors may not be given ​gifts in ​exchange for an ​agreement to prescribe a ​product.

The literal signification of the words is rather interesting too. It basically means the laws which originates from or belongs to direction, leadership or guidance. The last three links lead to Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language definitions of each word in the phrase if you want more details, although I doubt you will.


guidelines, direction, principle, procedure, protocol, conventions, norms .. For example:

Hey, mind reading the guidelines first.


Please consider charter


a document that describes the basic laws, principles, etc., of a group



Kindly read and follow the community charter before posting to avoid getting marked for abuse.

You can explicitly state that it is essential to read this document before participating in the group. I am a moderator for a bunch of internal online communities and discussion boards at my office and I prefer the term "community charter" and it works well for me.

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