• Field Notes 28.09.2011

    I have a list of words on my desk I got from a previous employer. I don’t know what made me hang on to it, but the sheet has a big, red header at the top: “NO-NO Words.” These were the words (in the context of the company’s primary business) the staff was never to use in written (probably verbal, too) communication. And no, they weren’t the obvious ones all well-mannered adults know to avoid…

    The reason we weren’t allowed to use them is each one has a definition that would legally obligate the company and/or the writer to a level of performance the company didn’t want to guarantee. Not that their performance was anything less than what it should be, but those words were put together based on their years of experience, and I think with input from their bonding company. In all likelihood, some lawyers probably contributed, too. Or maybe it was just based on the best teacher of all: sad experience.

    Some of the words, I hope you will agree, shouldn’t have much room in correspondence, be it letters, proposals, bids, etc.: “ALL,” “ALWAYS,” “EQUAL,” “GUARANTEE.” The reasons for avoiding them should be pretty self-explanatory.

    One such instance where the words have changed is the way architects used to describe the action of a submittal they’ve received and are expected to comment on. When I started in this biz, submittals came back with one of the following boxes checked: “Approved,” “Approved As Noted,” “Revise” or “Rejected.” Many architects’ stamps have changed. They typically no longer approve the submittals, but mark them “Reviewed,” “Reviewed as Noted,” “Not Reviewed” or “Revise/Resubmit.”

    My guess is that “Approved” was too broad a stroke. Architects, within the confines of their own professional liability, saying the submittal was “Approved” meant that everything on the drawing had their approval. If something on the drawing was wrong (a bolt undersized for a structural connection, for example), and then if the wall were to fall off, some lawyer’s going to ask the architect on the witness stand, “Well, you reviewed and approved this drawing, didn’t you? What does your ‘approval’ mean?” I could see where that could lead to some “hemmin’ and hawin” on the part of anybody on that hot seat.

    This “Reviewed” comment might be a good thing. We ought to be responsible for the technical accuracy of our own work. After all, not many architects are structural engineers – you wouldn’t expect them to know the specific load performance of a ½”-diameter bolt compared to a smaller or larger bolt in a certain application.

    It appears the architects now largely review submittals for the accuracy of the aesthetics: the drawings showed a 5’-0” mullion spacing, they can check and verify that’s what the shop drawing elevations show. The system’s 2 ½” wide, that’s correct (or not), that everything’s lined up with the adjacent work as it should be (or isn’t). Those types of corrections are what many of us in the glazing industry get back with the “Reviewed” box check. That’s about it, I guess. A consultant might weigh in on the technical issues, but that’s a different matter. In all likelihood, the consultant’s trying to assure compliance with the specification requirements, and to verify the contractor (or manufacturer, or both) are doing what’s required by the contract documents.

    Bottom Line: There’s probably a vocabulary unique to each of our businesses that if you haven’t written it down yet, if you thought about it you probably could. If it’s not individual words, it’s at least expressions.

    And in recognition of the campaign season, which by most signs is already upon us:  I APPROVED REVIEWED this blog.  I almost used one of the no-no-words….


    Posted by Blogger @ 12:51 pm

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