How we use words is important.  They are one of our inexhaustible resources. But if we don’t use them mindfully, there is no limit to the mischief they can cause.


Many may think that the Drawing we produce for projects would govern all intent.  That is not always the case.  The accompanying document to the drawings is the Project Manual and it contains within it, among other things, the Specifications.  There will be a set of chapters for each type of construction or products designated in the Drawings.  Hopefully the Drawings and Specifications are properly coordinated and match up in all instances.  That doesn’t always happen.  We would like, as design professionals, for anyone else interpreting our Construction Documents to ask us our intent if there is any confusion, but that doesn’t always happen either.  While it is more complicated than can be described with this single sentence, a general rule in the profession is: in the case of difference between Drawings and Specifications, the Specification shall govern.
There is another choice word in that last sentence.  See that word “shall”?  Could it not have said “will”?  Of course.  But in legal jargon, “shall” connotes a strict requirement.  The word “will” could simply mean something that will take place in the future.  Look at the founding documents of our Country.  Those guys used the term “shall” liberally.  They knew something about lasting documents!

Speaking of “shall”, writers of building codes also LOVE the word “shall”.  In case you were wondering (I know you were), the 2009 IBC, 12th Edition mentions the word “shall” 9,109 times.  There’s only 716 pages by the way.

Word choice is key.  I am a big believer in using as few words as possible to convey a message, whether it be a note on a drawing, an email to a Client, or a response to a Contractor.  I wrote another post on that topic here:  Yada Yada World, so I won’t get into it here.

But you have to use the right words.  I love my daughter dearly, and I am not making light of her auditory processing disorder, but she said the funniest thing at the dinner table recently.  She is very musical and volunteered to play at this year’s high school graduation.  When she told us the tune they were to play, I nearly spit out my peas.  She told us she was practicing “Pomp and Circumcision” instead of “Pomp and Circumstance”.

So yeah, words are important.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is “Words” and was led by Jeremiah Russell.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Does anyone hear your words?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Visual Words

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Words are Simple — Too Simple

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks 40: Words

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A pictures worth

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Mindset for Endless Motivation and Discipline #Architalks

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Use Your Words (Even When You Can’t)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Leah Alissa Bayer – The Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Architects Are Storytellers