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confusion like this one are usually resolved by attaching the modifier only to thenearest word that it may modify. Lawyers call this approach to resolving ambiguities"the doctrine of the last antecedent." It is a rule that is easy to run afoul of, especiallywhen the sentence in question is long and complicated.Essential and nonessential dependent clausesThe ability to distinguish between essential and nonessential dependent clauses is anextremely important skill for specification writers. When a clause that was intendedto be essential is inadvertently written as nonessential, or vice versa, the requirementstated by it may be distorted or lost. The visible difference between the two isnothing more than a comma before the introductory word. The nonessential clausegets the comma. Here is a list of introductory words and phrases that may introduceboth essential and nonessential clauses, and therefore require the utmost caution:afterasasifas thoughas soon asat whichbecausebeforebywhichforwhichifin order thatsincesothatto whichunlesswhenwherewhichwhilewhowhomwhoseMultiple conjunctionsWhen you write sentences with two or more conjunctions, you risk producing anambiguity. For example,The flange shall be fastened by gluing and clamping or riveting.could mean "gluing and clampingor riveting" or it could mean "gluing andclampingor riveting," with the bold characters added for clarity. Unfortunately, English doesnot provide us with a means of declaring the order of application of its logicaloperators the way computer languages do. The burden of resolving the confusion ofprecedence is placed on the writer, who must find a different way of expressing theidea without ambiguity. In the above case try"The flange shall be fastened either by gluing and clamping or by riveting."
57 |P a g eSpecifications in the third personNormally we write specifications so that they always refer to the third person. Forcingyour writing into the third person is difficult, and often makes the sentences difficultto read. It runs contrary to the advice of modern writing teachers who are trying toreform us, and is also contrary to the advice of the Construction SpecificationsInstitute. BUT, the rest of the world is expecting to see specifications written in thethird person, and writing them otherwise is inviting criticism. Hence, using the words"I," "we" and "you" is frowned upon.If you MUST refer to the first or second person, be sure you define the meaning of thepronouns, and use them only as defined.ListsWhenever you compose a list in the text of your specifications, you should take painsto make it complete and easy to read, and that its elements all consist of parallelparts of speech.

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