The Three Golden Rules for Writing Specifications

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Goal of this document:
These three rules shall assist specification authors writing specifications.

Intended readership:
Specification authors, specification reviewers (Development , Quality Assurance , User Experience, Documentation

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Each of the following rules [R] is accompanied by a couple of checklist questions. The optimum is to answer all of the questions with 'Yes'.


First and foremost a specification has to be complete. That means all relevant aspects of a feature have been captured. When user interfaces (UI) are involved:

  • Are the topics of the Accessibility Checklist covered?
  • Are the topics of the Globalization Checklist covered?
  • Are the topics of the Interface Text Style Guide checklist covered?
  • Do alerts meet the requirements specified in the - Alert Guidelines?
  • Are all menu related changes specified in the - Comprehensive Menu specification?
  • Are all tool bar related changes specified in the - Comprehensive Tool bar specification?
  • Is each UI element specified in detail (e.g default values, input and output ranges, interactions and possible relations to other UI elements and parts of the UI)?
  • Is the exception handling specified in detail?


  • Each statement has to be unambiguously clear to Development , Quality Assurance, USer Experience and Documentation.
  • Is the specification in itself clear enough to the intended readership for being implemented, being tested and for being documented?
  • Are you using quantifiable statements instead of interpretable generalities?
  • Have you avoided to use terms like “more”, “most”, “less”, “easy”, “improve”, “enhanced”, “better”?
  • Are you consistent within the specification and to specifications which relate to the feature you are specifying?


  • Each statement shall be as short and simple as possible.

Is any secondary writing regarding the detailed specification clearly separated e.g. “comments”, “notes”, “suggestions”, “ideas”, “reasons”?


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