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This is not a contest, just a question about how to interpret lists which has been on my mind.

I rely on complex lists to convey complex ideas with multiple conditions.  Here is an example which I think is a bad one:

Quote

 

  1. Task 1.  The Contractor shall rebuild engines that are (a) marked with a red tag, included on the Rebuild Report, or as verbally instructed by the Foreman or Assistant Foreman-

    1. using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts unless:

      1. the Contractor obtains a waiver from the manufacturer; or

      2. the Foreman or Assistant Foreman approves an alternative part.

 

This example is patterned after a legislative passage I was having a hard time with here.  Does the format of a list affect how the passage is interpreted?  Here it is as a paragraph:

Quote

Task 1. The Contractor shall rebuild engines that are marked with a red tag, included on the Rebuild Report, or as verbally instructed by the Foreman or Assistant Foreman using Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts unless the Contractor obtains a waiver from the manufacturer, or the Foreman or Assistant Foreman approves an alternative part.

The passage is a *hot mess* as a paragraph.  For example, does the requirement to repair with OEM parts apply to the red tag and Rebuild Report engines?  Or just to the ones verbally directed?  There are a lot of ambiguities here.

It seems so much clearer as a list! 

Question: Does the list format resolve ambiguities of this nature?  Or is it just a format which is a hell of a lot easier to read, but conceals these problems?

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Guest Vern Edwards

Format might affect interpretation, depending on context. But your "list" example is still a "hot mess."

What you have is a badly written sentence. Changing the format does not improve it.

 

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Thanks- breakdown describes this much better.  I wish I could take full credit for the hot messness, partial credit goes to the National Defense Authorization Act!

If my project officer generated that content, I would send back something like this:

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Task 1.  The Contractor shall rebuild all Defective Engines.  Defective Engines are engines marked with a red tag, included on the Rebuild Report or designated as such by the Foreman or Assistant Foreman.  The Contractor shall use Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts to rebuild these Defective Engines unless the Contractor obtains a waiver from the manufacturer, or the Foreman or Assistant Foreman approves an alternate part.

Still improvement to be made I'm sure, but better. Not exactly sure why the breakdown format conceals (somewhat) these problems.  I think we assume each element of the breakdown is a non-divisible unit, which isn't true.

Thanks as always, Vern!

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Guest Vern Edwards

1.1 The Contractor shall rebuild all defective engines in accordance with....

1.1.1."Defective engines" means engines that are:

  1. marked with a red tag, or
  2. identified as such in the Rebuild Report, or
  3. designed as such by the Foreman or Assistant Foreman.

1.1.2 Use only parts manufactured by the original equipment manufacturer, unless the manufacturer, or the Foreman, or the Assistant Forement authorize the use of other parts.

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I noticed that the breakdown is great if you have to cite a piece of it at the other party.

Thanks also  Don for that article.  It stands to reason, I guess, that spoiling the category of a list with an item outside the category screws everything up.  I can see this creeping into any document created by committee.

I too have a joke with a list: Cannot post here.  Will PM.

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