Contributed by David Bishton
The ranks of the great overused and often misapplied phrases in architectural and engineering drawings and specifications include gems such as:
To this list we must add the ubiquitous and often redundant phrase “…as required.” A further aside on instructions to kids: “Clean this room as required“ may lead to somewhat unsatisfactory results.
Many times I have reflected on the possibility, after wrestling through a problem in the field, that one extra phrase or even a word added to a drawing note or specification might have prevented the problem from occurring. The phrase “as required” has never been associated with such reflection. Musing in my previous chapter, I wondered if a slightly longer version such as “…AS REQUIRED BY ANY SANE PERSON WITH HALF A BRAIN THAT OBSERVES THIS CONDITION” would be more helpful. Recently I began to wonder which other technical/scientific fields or even everyday endeavors regularly use this term with success when providing instructions.
What if this term was used regularly in cookbooks? You’d list all the ingredients like 2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. melon liqueur, pineapple juice to taste…wait a minute, that’s the recipe for a Pearl Harbor. What else do you need after you have the ingredients – ice and a glass? Let’s try something more complicated. Say it’s an extra special dinner to impress your family at a holiday. Something liked the filling needed for a Stuffed Boar’s Head. You have your 2 lbs. cooked ground pork sausage, 7 cups boiled long grain rice, 5 tbsp. melted butter, 2 cups chopped onion, 1 lb. coarsely chopped walnuts, and on and on. After all that work the last thing you want to see is “Boil boar’s head in a large stockpot, scoop out head meat, stuff and bake as required.” Or even less “Prepare and cook per manufacturer’s instructions.” And yes, the full recipe actually exists in Joy of Cooking. I’ve never tried it.
OK, that was extreme. Let’s move on to open heart surgery. One of the last instructions in the textbook is to “Attach all disconnected plumbing lines to each chamber of the heart as required.” Perhaps with a closing instruction to “Field verify life of patient and provide a test and balance report.”
I know, rocket science: “13, we have one more item for you when you get a chance. We’d like you to stir up your cryo tanks as required.” OK, the last 2 words were not in there but were certainly implied. Soon to be followed by “OK Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Or imagine a short specification to “Visually inspect O-rings on external fuel tank as required prior to launch.” Do you think that spec eventually got expanded a bit? Perhaps you’re a weapons manufacturer following the specification, “Connect fissile material to primary detonator as required to ensure full thermonuclear explosion.”
Finally an example in the spirit of election year politics and effective congressional bill writing. After 97 pages of whereas, wherefore, be it enacted, and the honorable representative from the great state of…you get to the heart of the legislation. 569 more pages of specific provisions, enforcements, penalties, oversight, and reporting. And finally the catch-all “Comply with the Constitution of the United States of America as required.” Only 666 pages.
So maybe the instruction “Install surface mounted accessories using expansion anchors as required for gypsum drywall or masonry substrates” does not need more detailed explanation for your toilet tissue dispensers. But most times that you want to use just these 2 words with no other modifier or condition, you might at least consider:
I believe it’s now time to “combine all ingredients with ice, stir or shake as required, and enjoy.
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