Plain English

Lawyers are not the only people who are accused of failing to use plain English. Occasionally specifications miss the mark and trouble follows.

An extreme exaggeration of unknown origin suggesting that spec writers may also be guilty of not saying what they intend to say or not intending to say what they say is fantasized as follows:

“The plans and specifications are to be taken together. Anything shone on the plans and not mentioned in the specifications and not shone in the plans, is to be considered as both shone and specified, and anything wanted by the engineer or any of his friends, or by anybody else except the contractor, shall be considered as shone, specified, implied, and required and shall be provided by the contrackter without no expense to nobody but hisself. If the work has bin done without expense to the contrackter, the work shall be taken down and done over again until the expense is satisfactory to the engineer.

Anything that is right in the plans shall be considered right, anything that is rong on the plans shall be diskuvered by the contrackter and shall be made right without telling the engineer or indicating it in the bills.

Anything that is forgotten or left out of the plan or specifications, but which is necessary for the conveyance of the Owner, shall be provided without extry to nobody but the contrackter. The arkitekt reserves the right to change his mind about what is best. Eny evidence of satisfaction on the part of the owner shall be considered just cause for withholding final payment.”

We have actually seen specification provisions which were in better English but equally incomprehensible. One case that went to trial involved a project located in Jefferson County. The special conditions of the specifications mysteriously required that the work was to be per formed in accordance with the Building Code of the City and County of Denver. The same clumsy specifications also detailed a multi-building project. This resulted in completion dates for four buildings instead of the single building involved in the intended project.

Modern automatic typewriters are great, but should not be used as a substitute for careful attention to details. The modern contraptions should certainly be used for boiler-plate provisions common to every job. All other provisions should be carefully tailored to assure consistency with other documents and with the project conditions actually involved.

Specification writers, like lawyers, would certainly be better off not to say it at all unless what is said applies and can be understood by the person who needs to know what is intended to be said.

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