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Scope of Services Writing Tips

A variety of people with different perspectives and life experiences will read your Scope of Services (SOS). Readers typically include the Service Provider’s contracting personnel, managers, technical experts, accountants and lawyers. All these readers need to understand the SOS in a clear and concise manner; therefore, language selection is very important. Consider the following tips when writing the SOS:

  • Use simple words, phrases, and sentences whenever practical.
  • Be concise, precise, and consistent. Keep sentences short and to the point. Normally the longer the sentence, the harder it is to understand.
  • Use verbs in the active voice. A verb is in the active voice when it expresses an action performed by its subject. For example, “The Service Provider shall report contract progress quarterly.”
  • Avoid using verbs in the passive voice. A verb is in the passive voice when it expresses an action performed upon its subject or when the subject is the result of the action. For example, “Contract progress shall be reported quarterly by the Service Provider.”
  • Use “shall” or “must” when writing a requirement binding on the Service Provider. Avoid “should” or “may” because these words leave the decision on appropriate action up to the Service Provider.
  • Use “will” to indicate actions by the University.
  • Be consistent when using terminology. Use the same word to mean the same thing throughout your SOS. Avoid using different words to indicate the same type of action.
  • Avoid redundancy. At best, requiring the Service Provider to do the same thing in different parts of the SOS will add needless words to the SOS. At worst, there may be subtle differences in the requirements that will lead to a dispute during contract performance.
  • Avoid vague or inexact phrases and generalizations.
  • Avoid catchall and open-ended phrases, such as, “is common practice in the industry,” “as directed,” or “subject to approval.”
  • Define technical terms.
  • Avoid using University jargon. Assure that it is clearly defined whenever jargon must be used.
  • Only use “any,” “either,” “and/or,” “etc.” when allowing the Service Provider to select an alternative.
  • Use abbreviations or acronyms only after spelling them out the first time they are used (for example, Regional Biocontainment Laboratory [RBL]). Spell them out even if they are commonly used in the University because the Service Provider may not be familiar with them.
  • Identify the date or version of any document referenced in your SOS.
  • Advise readers where they can obtain referenced documents.