File noting has been in the recent past, and still is, under heated discussion in the context of Right to Information Act, 2005. It has, thus, been drawing a lot of interest from all concerned.
Basic note in a file is written by an Office Assistant/ Assistant Section Officer. A good note should properly define and analyse the problem; refer to relevant rules, regulations, policies and precedents; talk about alternative solutions; discuss implications of these various alternatives and then suggest a suitable solution and a draft reply. Noting and drafting has, therefore, always been a vital part of decision-making process in the Government.
The quality of Noting and Drafting has deteriorated over the years. There is hardly any publication on the subject except for some references in the manuals of office procedures. Hence, this attempt, A book for Government Officials to Master Noting and Drafting.
It is a comprehensive book which talks about various concepts, the significance, features of good and bad notings, and skilful drafts citing examples drawn from actual files. Different exercises, their solutions, and samples of some good file notings and useful drafts make this book valuable for all its readers.
M.K. Agarwal is academically very well qualified and has been a very efficient, effective and experienced officer. He is MA in Public Administration and Sahitya Ratna in Hindi. He belonged to the Central Secretariat Service and retired as a Deputy Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs. He has always been one of the most sought officers because of his great skills in noting and drafting. He was trained at the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management, Indian Institute of Public Administration and Royal Institute of Public Administration, London. He has been Secretary of a Parliamentary Sub-committee on official language for more than three and a half years. He has trained thousands of officers at the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management where he has been the Joint Director for more than 7 years. He is one of the most important faculty members in the training programmes in the Senior Citizens Council for Human Resource Development, under whose banner this book has been published.
1. WRITING EFFECTIVELY
2. Write The Way You Talk
3. Streamline Your Writing
4. Organise Your Writing
5. Present Your Writing
6. Meet The Deadline
2. PROCESSING OF CASES IN OFFICE
2. General Principles Of Processing Cases
3. Sorting Documents And Their Classification
4. Bringing Documents On File
5. Examining Documents
6. Putting Up Of The Cases
3. FORMS OF WRITTEN COMMUNICATION
2. Forms Of Written Communication
4. Demi-official (D.O.) Letter
5. Office Memorandum (O.M.)
6. Inter-departmental (ID) Note (U.O. Note)
8. Office Order / Order
11.Press Communique / Note
14.Fax And Telex
16.Sms (Short Message Service)
2. What Is Noting?
3. Cases Where Noting Is Not Required
4. Cases Where Noting Is Required
5. Action Before Noting In A Case
6. What To Write In A Note ?
7. Guidelines For Writing Notes
8. Modification Of Notes Or Orders
9. Noting On Files Received From Other Departments
10.Noting Under Single File System (SFS)
2. What Is Drafting?
3. Cases Where Drafting Is Not Required
4. Procedure For Drafting
5. General Instructions For Drafting
6. Authentication Of Government Orders
7. Addressing Communications To Officers By Name
8. Drafting Of Demi-official Letters
9. Communications To The Attorney – General Of India
10.Communication To Constitutional / Statutory Authorities
11.Comunications To The Comptroller And Auditor General Of India
12.Communications To The Union Public Service Commission
13.Correspondence With Union Territory Administrations
14.Correspondence With State Government
15.Correspondence With The Lok Sabha And The Rajya Sabha Secretariats
16.Correspondence With Members Of Parliament
17.Correspondence With Ministers Of State Governments
18.Correspondence With Foreign Governments And International Organisations
19.Prompt Response To Letters Received
20.Target Date For Replies
GUIDELINES FOR WRITING NOTES
7.1 A note is a piece of writing intended for internal use within the organization. Therefore, the principles of effective writing should be followed in writing notes. Thus, a note should be.
(1) Complete, i.e., it should answer all questions that have been raised and all other possible questions that may arise while considering the case. Answers to questions such as What, Why, How, When, Where, and Who will help in making the note complete.
(2) Clear, i.e., it should be written, as far as possible, choosing short, familiar words, using short sentences, in active voice, and preferring concrete expressions in place of abstract ones.
(3) Concise and to the point, i.e., it should not contain wordy expressions, or trite or unnecessary expressions, and should include only relevant statements. It should also avoid repetitions either of words or ideas.
(4) Coherent, i.e., it should be logically arranged, sticking to one idea for each paragraph, and linking together sentences and paragraphs.
(5) Correct, i.e., it should be factually correct, figures should be free from mistakes, and the writing should be grammatically correct.
(6) Courteous, i.e., it should express ideas tactfully, without hurting anybody’s feelings, and emphasise positive facts. If apparent errors or incorrect statements in a case have to be pointed out or if an opinion expressed therein has to be criticized, care should be taken to couch the observations in courteous and temperate language free from personal remarks.
(7) Organised properly, i.e., it should put ideas in the best order for impact, reflecting clear thinking. The first paragraph should state the main point followed by paragraphs giving evidence and discussing it, and the final paragraph should contain recommendations.
(8) Visually attractive, i.e., it should be made attractive by dividing the note in serially numbered paragraphs, using headings liberally, and keeping the paragraphs of six to ten lines each. Where possible use bullets and other lists, and leave a small margin of about one inch on all sides (left, right, top and bottom).
7.2 ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES FOR WRITING NOTES ARE :
(1) Notes and orders should normally be recorded on note sheets in the note portion of the file.
(2) Notes should be typed or written on both sides of the note sheet.
(3) Black or blue ink should be used by all category of staff and officers. Only an officer of the level of Joint Secretary of Government of India and above may use green or red ink in rare cases.
(4) The verbatim reproduction of extracts from or paraphrasing of the paper under consideration, fresh receipt, or any other part of correspondence or notes on the same file, should not be attempted.
(5) When passing orders or making suggestions, an officer should confine his note to the actual points he proposes to make without reiterating the ground already covered in the previous notes. If he agrees to the line of action suggested in the preceding note, he should merely append his signature.
(6) Any officer, who has to note upon a file on which a running summary of facts is available should, in drawing attention to the facts of the case, refer to the appropriate part of the summary without repeating it in his own note.
(7) Relevant extracts or a rule or instruction should be placed on the file and attention to it should be drawn in the note, rather than reproducing the relevant provisions in the note.
(8) Unless a running summary of facts is already available on the file or the last note on the file itself serves that purpose, a self-contained note should be put up with every case submitted to the highest authority of the organization. Such a note should bring out briefly but clearly relevant facts, including the views expressed on the subject by other departments, if any, consulted in the matter and the point or points on which the orders of the highest authority are sought.
(9) When a paper under consideration raises several major points which require detailed examination and respective orders, each point (or group of related points) should be noted upon separately in section notes; such notes should each begin with a list of the major point(s) dealt with therein.
(10) The dealing hand should append his full signature with date on the left below his note. An officer should append his full signature on the right hand side of the note with name, designation, and date.
(11) If the note has been written till the end of the page, and there is no blank sheet thereafter, a blank note sheet should be added to the file, so that the officer is not inconvenienced in writing his note or giving his orders.
4. PROCEDURE FOR DRAFTING
4.1 It is not always necessary to await the approval of the proposed line of action and the draft should be put up simultaneously along with the notes by the initiating level officer. The higher officer may revise the draft if it does not conform to the approved course of action.
4.2 After a final decision is taken by the competent authority, he may have the fair communication made for his signature and authorise its issue; otherwise, he should prepare a draft and submit it to the appropriate higher officer for approval.
4.3 The officer approving the issue of a draft should append his initials with the date on the draft. It is also expected of him that he passes order on the file simultaneously whether the draft so approved should be kept on the file (along with the office copy of the communication issued in fair) or not.
4.4 Initial drafting should be done in black or blue ink. Modification in the draft at the subsequent levels may be made in green or red ink by the officers so as to distinguish the corrections made.
5. GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR DRAFTING
(1) A draft should carry the message sought to be conveyed in a language that is clear, concise, and incapable of misconstruction.
(2) Lengthy sentences, abruptness, redundancy, circumlocution, superlatives and repetition, whether of words, observations or ideas, should be avoided.
(3) Official communications emanating from a department and purporting to convey the laws or orders of the Government must specifically be expressed to have been written under the directions of Government. This requirement does not, however, imply that each communication should start with the phrase ‘I am directed to say’ or ‘The undersigned is directed to convey’, which has the effect of distancing the communicator from the reader at the very outset. A more direct and to-the-point format is to be preferred if some degree of rapport is to be established with the receiver of the communication. The obligatory requirement can be met in a variety of imaginative ways. For instance, variations of the phrase can be added to the operative part of the letter towards the end as under:
“………….. I have the pleasure to inform you that the government, on reconsideration of the matter, has decided to sanction an additional grant of ……………….”
“……………. In the light of the above developments, government conveys its inability to accede to ………………..”
(4) Communications of some length or complexity should generally conclude with a summary.
(5) Depending upon the form of communication, the subject should be mentioned in it (including reminders).
(6) The number and date of the last communication in the series, and if this is not from the addressee, his last communication on the subject, should always be referred to. Where it is necessary to refer to more than one communication or a series of communications, this should be done in the margin of the draft.
(7) All drafts put up on a file should bear the file number. When two or more communications are to issue from the same file to the same addressee on the same date, a separate serial number may be inserted before the numeral identifying the year to avoid confusion in reference, e.g., A-1101/5/(I)/2005-Est., A-1101/5(II)/2005-Est.
(8) A draft should clearly specify the enclosures which are to accompany the fair copy. In addition, short oblique lines should be drawn at appropriate places in the margin for ready reference by the typist, the comparers and the despatcher. The number of enclosures should also be indicated at the end of the draft on the bottom left of the page thus- ‘Encl.3’.
(9) If copies of an enclosure referred to in the draft are available and are, therefore, not to be typed, an indication to that effect should be given in the margin of the draft below the relevant oblique line.
(10) If the communication to be despatched by post is important (e.g., a notice cancelling a licence or withdrawing an existing facility) or encloses a valuable document (such as an agreement, service book or a cheque) instructions as to whether it should be sent through registered post or speed post or in an insured cover, should be given on the draft by the Superintendent/Section Officer concerned with its issue.
(11) Urgent communication with bulky enclosures to far-flung areas like Andaman & Nicobar Islands should be arranged to be despatched by Air Parcel through Indian Airlines. The addressee should also be advised through wireless to take delivery of the consignment. Instructions to this effect should be given by the Divisional Head / Branch Officer/Section Officer at the time of approval of draft.
(12) The name, designation, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address of the officer, over whose signature the communication is to issue, should invariably be indicated on the draft.
(13) In writing, or typing a draft, sufficient space should be left on the margin and between successive lines so that additions or interpolation of words may be made, if necessary.
(14) A slip bearing the words ‘Draft for approval’ should be attached to the draft. If two or more drafts are put up on a file, the drafts as well as the slips attached thereto should be marked ‘DFAI’, DFA II’, ‘DFA III’ and so on.
(15) Drafts which are to be issued as ‘Immediate’ or ‘Priority’ should be so marked under the orders of an officer not lower in rank than a Superintendent/Section Officer.