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When Shall I Use Will?

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A Which Hunt

When Shall I Use Will?

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CSI's Manual of Practice states the way the words "shall" and "will" are to be used, and discourages use of the word must.

Shall and Will: Shall is used as an imperative in reference to the work required to be done by a contractor. Will is optional and is used in connection with acts and actions required of the owner or the architect engineer (A/E). The words "must" and "is to" are not recommended. (CSI Manual of Practice, FF/170)

If one follows the rule, there is no need for the word "must." Is there a difference between "shall" and "must"? Can a difference be inferred by the contractor? If so, a court will certainly rule in the contractor's favor. Perhaps, the jury will reason, there is a continuum of responsibility for compliance, with "shall" at the high end, "may" at the bottom, and "must" and "should" somewhere in between.

Another source is more emphatic.

"Will" vs. "shall." When an obligation on the part of the contractor is indicated, it should be associated with "shall." The word "must" should not be used. When there is an expression of intent on the part of the owner or engineer, use "will." (Joseph Goldbloom, "Improving Specifications," Civil Engineering, September 1992)

Finally, from an English language reference:

The Use of Shall and Will

Many of the precise distinctions concerning the use of shall and will are rapidly passing out of informal speaking and writing. Careful writers, however, still observe some of these distinctions.
If you want to express determination, compulsion, threat, or promise...use will in the first person, and shall in the second and third persons.
First person: I will go, second person: you shall go, third person: he shall go
(New Webster's Grammar Guide, Lexicon Publications, 1987)

When speaking of the contractor, "shall" indicates the requirement that an action be performed. When speaking of the owner or the A/E, "will" indicates not a promise, but an expectation of some action.

Note that these rules apply to the specifications, which are directed to the contractor. The conditions of the contract, which are not specifications, are written differently. Here you will find many instances where the owner is required to perform some action so the contractor can perform properly and efficiently. In those cases, you will find that "the Owner shall" do certain things.

1996 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA 


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