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Colin Gilboy
Username: Colin

Post Number: 42
Registered: 05-2000
Posted on Sunday, February 16, 2003 - 01:18 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post


Copyright 2001 by Herman R. Hoyer, PE, FCSI, CCS

Mark Twain, when he was roaming the West as a reporter, wrote to his editor, "I haven't got time to write you a short letter, so I'm sending you a long one instead." This is an illustration of the fact that writing a short, concise, effective letter is more difficult than writing a long, rambling letter. And so it is with specifications, which leads us into Basic Tenet No. 5, as follows:


Short-form specifications should be written primarily in the imperative mood, using the indicative mood only when necessary to convey the intended meaning more accurately. I use the indicative mood mostly in Division 1 Sections, and when explanations are necessary.

And, of course, Streamlining should be employed when appropriate as specified under Tenet No. 4. Streamlining is used most often when specifying products.

In general, the specification-language recommendations of CSI's Manual of Practice apply also to short-form specifications. And remember, always grammatically correct sentences, except for the arbitrary "license" granted by Streamlining.

Other shortcutting methods include the following:

1. Use the word "provide" in place of "furnish and install" as defined in Section 01425, Definitions and Interpretations.

2. Write your specifications without adjectives and adverbs as much as possible. (Read the sentence to yourself with and without the adjective or adverb. If it sounds all right without the adjective or adverb, then leave it out. Some nouns require an adjective to convey the correct meaning. Example: "Inferior Quality" vs. "Superior Quality." So, this is not a hard and fast rule.)

3. Use of the word "all" in most sentences is not necessary. (Again, read the sentence to yourself with and without the word "all".)

Interestingly, there is still a lot of bad language in the specifications that come across my desk. You should train yourself to spot this bad language, and then improve it. Here are just a few examples of bad language, taken from actual specifications, and suggested improvements:

1. Actual Language: The Contractor shall take all necessary precautions to prevent pollution of the stream.

Improved Language: Prevent pollution of the stream.

2. Actual Language: The Contractor shall be prepared to furnish suitable space in his plant for testing of panels.

Improved Language: Provide suitable plant facilities for testing of panels.

3. Actual Language: Under no circumstances will aluminum conduit be allowed to be embedded in concrete.

Improved Language: Aluminum conduit will not be permitted in concrete.

* * *

Correction: I made a Section-numbering mistake in several of my earlier
articles, regarding the numbers for the Sections entitled: Reference
Standards and Definitions and Interpretations. The correct numbers and
titles, when following the 1995 Masterformat, are as follows:

Section 01422 - Reference Standards
Section 01425 - Definitions and Interpretations

I must be getting old.

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