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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1377
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 11:06 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph W. Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

“Once upon a time, it was a dark and dreary night...............................”

Now let’s see, where does that belong-- Part 1- Summary? Part 1- Project Conditions? Division 01, Section 011100, Summary of Work? Section 003119, Existing Condition Information? or Section 281600, Intrusion Detection?

All of them? None of them? Well, no matter, the language is too imprecise, open-ended, and without due resolution—i.e., so what if it is “dark and dreary”, and at night, what do you want done?

Wonder how many specifications writers pick a good mystery or novel apart in terms similar to those. Aw, come on, some of you do; some do not [usually those with less than 2 years experience!] We are cynical, aren’t we? We are devoted and dedicated almost to a fault. We are immersed, inquisitive, incisive, probing, thirsty for information, and yes, annoyingly opinionated.

But, we are good! Who are they that disagree?

Well, you know, writing specifications is not all that far removed from writing more casual reading books—non-fiction, mysteries, text books, children’s books, documentaries, training and instructional manuals, and of course, fiction. Of course, many a contractor thinks we, indeed, write “fiction”, or mysteries, in addition to a healthy dose of “convoluted claptrap” [yes, I did clean that up!]

But no matter how you may choose to call it, or approach it, we still have useful and necessary writing to do, and a “story” to tell. That is “story” as in a descriptive tale, and not in bold or insidious lies. So as true “storytellers” we stand in the company of the wonders of Twain, Lincoln, Nash, Michener, O’Henry, Poe, Hemingway, Eliot, Thoreau, etc. and the other greats of print, but also in the presence of stand-up comedians, who are great legendary storytellers— Berle, Youngman, Rodgers, Thomas, Cosby, King, Berman, Burns, Wilson, Russell and maybe even more moderns like Carlin, along with Stephen Wright and Eddie Murphy. Storytellers all!

But we all -- as “storytellers”-- have an onus that we need to meet to be successful. We must know, understand, and appreciate our audience. Talking in irrelevant or unfamiliar terms, leaves our audience at a loss to understand us and our information no matter how important. And in fact, we specification writers have yet other criteria we must meet.

We are not like print storytellers, who have the luxury of writing as they please no matter their audience [to whom they are remote and removed]. If the audience doesn’t buy their book, so what, others will. The same is true with stand-up comedians; some will like their jokes and stories, others will be repulsed, but who cares? The immediate audience will go home, and never engage the comedian, who can and will only react to the applause she/he receives.

But specification writers do not have this luxury! Our information must be written and conveyed in precise terms, fully cognizant of the users we address, and in such form as the information is readily available, and easily assimilated for use in the project work. We MUST care about our audience, for what they produce comes directly from what we write. The users become a conduit transforming our words into the reality of the project. If we fail in what we write or in how well we communicate, the project work will be faulty, and the repercussions will be back on us.

Hence, it is absolutely essential that we rid ourselves of all haughtiness, superiority, and self-satisfaction, so we can speak the right terms in the right way to the benefit and success of the project. BUT the project is NOT our audience-- we must act through the people-conduit, who need our information—its form, content, intent, and direction-- in order to produce the project to the full satisfaction of all parties.

In all our efforts, program and documents we must aim at understanding one’s audience and what is to be told, and how for the audience and not for ourselves. Even though we create the programs and the content we think meets the needs of the audience, there is still a factor to understanding who the audience is, and what they think they will gain from our programs. In our documents, etc. we still need to include what we THINK the readers want-- but we are more than well-advised to include what they think they want or what appeals to them This is all NOT a one-way street built on our thoughts only.

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