In my native language we call an organisation's policy documents styrdokument, which translates literally as steering documents. Steering documents is also the word used by many organisations (including my own) in translations into English. Now I'm wondering whether this really works in English – steering document is not listed in any of the dictionaries that I've checked (Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, Longman), and when I google it it basically only appears in texts written in a non-English context.

So: can steering documents be used as a synonym for policy documents, or am I right in thinking that this is simply translationese, and that the better choice would be policy documents, for documents detailing an organisation's rules and regulations?

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    Policy isn't quite the same as rules and regulations, which usually have more detail. "Policy documents" is fine if it is what you mean.
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 12:57
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    I would use the word "regulations" both for the rules themselves and for the document containing them. Perhaps "a copy of the regulations". "Steering documents" sounds awkward - "guiding documents" would be a bit better. "Governing documents" may be what you need.
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 13:07
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    A steering document isn't a very common term, but it's more or less the same thing as a white paper - a document written early in the planning process, outlining the most important aspects of a project. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 16:36
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    It's not a common usage, so it's not easy to find a "definition" (you'd certainly never find the collocation steering document in any dictionary). But you'll find many online definitions for a steering committee, where "steering" has more or less the same meaning. And in some cases, the primary purpose of the steering committee is simply to produce a steering document anyway. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:24
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    It's not clear exactly what you mean by "the organization's rules and regulations", but one version of this is often called an employee handbook, which specifically lists the rules and regulations that individual employees must abide by. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


No, you can not use steering document as a synonym for policy document in English.

Steering document makes no sense in English, though it might make sense in Norwegian or Swedish, but we can't always translate our own language's words directly into English.

If you want to know more about synonyms to policy document, have a look here

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    Of course it "makes sense"! Anyway, it's in Hansard (official record of proceedings in the UK parliament) - Before Easter we will publish a steering document which will inform and guide this and launch the stakeholder engagement process. Presumably the speaker there had some specific reason for not using the more common term white paper, implying that the two terms aren't quite synonymous in every context. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:28
  • @FumbleFingers I think texasboy probably meant that it's translationese, rather than that it doesn't make any sense. Either way the answer as a whole is good and well intended, so I hope whoever downvoted it will upvote it again :)
    – Helen
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:30
  • Tack Texasboy! Det är exakt så här jag tänker också :) It makes sense to us, when we just translate it back to Norwegian/Swedish, but speakers of English won't understand it as meaning what we think it means.
    – Helen
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:32
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    ... but I would just point out that "steering documents" are much more common in software development & planning than in other business contexts. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 17:41
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    Sorry, but you're wrong. I have heard this before, and @FumbleFingers pointed out where -- software development. Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 18:44

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