Standardize Word Usage

Standardize word usage. CC_ID 06104

Do be consistent in the use of language throughout compliance and governance documents. Do not use the same word or phrase to convey different meanings. Do not use different language to convey the same meaning. Be consistent in the arrangement of comparable provisions.

If you have found the right word, don't be afraid to use it again and again. In other words, don't show your pedantry by an ostentatious parade of synonyms. Although the generous use of synonyms is fundamental to most types of writing, it is particularly ill-suited for drafting legislation. When a word is used more than once in a suite of mandates, a presumption arises that the word or phrase has the same meaning throughout, unless a contrary intent is clear.

If you are unsure of the meaning of a term or phrase, turn to the Compliance Dictionary for appropriate definitions.

Do be consistent in the arrangement of comparable provisions in other controls. Do arrange sections containing similar material in the same way.

Don't sway from these rules.

Define the use of abbreviations in the sentence structure guidelines. CC_ID 06138

Avoid all abbreviations except for “i.e.”, “e.g.”, and “etc.” in citation guidance. When writing controls, never use abbreviations. When referencing a specific Authority Document, do the following:


Shorten the word “Article” to “Art” with no period at the end. If you refer to any section(s) within that article, place them immediately after the initial citation (e.g., Art 12, Art 12.2(a), Art 12.2.1).


Shorten the word “Schedule” to “Sched” with no period at the end. If you refer to any sections within that schedule, place them immediately after the initial reference (e.g., Sched 1, Sched 1(a), Sched 1.2.1).


Shorten the word “Chapter” to “Ch” with no period at the end. If the citation is referring to a section within the chapter, then place the section symbol after the “Ch” and before the section in the chapter (e.g., Ch 12 § 5.6).


Shorten the word “Appendix” to “App” with no section symbol (§) (e.g., App 2). If the citation is referring to a section within the Appendix, then place the section symbol after the “App” and before the section in the appendix (e.g., App A § 5.6).


The word “Attachment” should be shortened to “Attach” with no section symbol (§) (e.g., Attach 2). If the citation is referring to a section within the Attachment, then the section symbol should come after “Attach” and before the section in the attachment (e.g., Attach A § 5.6).


When used in a citation reference within the UCF Citation field, shorten the word “Page” to “Pg” with no period at the end.


When used in a citation reference, replace the word “Section” with the section symbol (§).


When used in a citation reference, replace the word “Paragraph” with the paragraph symbol (¶).

Define the use of acronyms in the sentence structure guidelines. CC_ID 06139

Do not use acronyms within control titles. When citing an Authority Document and providing a paraphrased text reference to it, if the Authority Document uses an acronym, ensure that you cross-reference that usage of the acronym within the UCF's Dictionary and update the Dictionary first, as necessary. Then, include within the citation the Dictionary reference followed by the acronym, which you should place within parentheses. Example:

Another Damned Acronym (ADA)

Use action words. CC_ID 06103

Seek out words that suggest action. For this, verbs are usually better than nouns and adjectives.

Select words carefully. CC_ID 06102

Choose words carefully. To find that word, use the dictionary and bounce words and drafts off any member of the office who will listen. What a word means to you may not be what it means to the next person.

Define the use of keywords in the sentence structure guidelines. CC_ID 06159

All ready, already

“Already” denotes something that happened in the past, while “all ready” denotes that all of something is ready. “When you pick up the backup tapes, the form must already be filled out before the tapes are all ready to go off-site.”

All together, altogether

“Altogether” denotes something is whole or complete, while “all together” means something will happen simultaneously. “Once you have the tape boxes altogether, they should be taken off-site all together.”

Alter, altar

Because a person worships at an “altar”, and that isn't something most IT people write about, you should know that when you “alter” something you are changing it. “Don't alter the forms once I've signed them.”

And, or

“And”, in this context, of course, means together with, in addition to. “Or” is a little trickier. An ambiguity occurs with “or” where it is not clear whether the inclusive “or” (A or B, or both) or the exclusive “or” (A or B, but not both) is intended. To avoid this ambiguity, write the following, as appropriate:

“A or B, or both” where the inclusive is intended or where jointly or severally is intended.

“A or B” where the exclusive is intended.

Assure, ensure, insure

People often get the meaning of these transitive verbs confused, so we'll make it crystal clear here. If you want to make certain of something then you are going to “ensure” it. If you worry about your business going Kablooey! in a disaster, you might want to “insure” it against loss. “Assure” distinctively implies the removal of suspense and doubt, as in to re-assure a frightened boss when the basement floods and your servers are swimming in it and a bit of overflow from the sewer system. (True story.)

Besides, beside

The difference between something being on the side of (i.e., next to) and something “in addition” is found within the added s in the two words – the addition of the s makes the word mean in addition. “Besides the tape container, please take the spare cables, which are beside the backup server.”

Biannual, biennial

“Biannual” means twice a year. “Biennial” means once every two years. It's that simple.

Dual, duel

Because you don't want to cause a fight, ensure that you are talking about two of something by using “dual”. “If you don't want to duel with the pickup driver, make sure that you have dual copies of the off-site forms ready.”

Everyday, every day

If you want to talk about something being routine, then you will use “everyday”, because “every day” means every single day, including weekends.

“Your procedure review process should become an everyday item in your mind, so that you practice it every day at work.”

Fewer, less

Pair “less” with mass nouns, such as clutter, and “fewer” with nouns you can count, like pencils. “I'd have less clutter on my desk, if I had fewer pens all over it.”

Good, well

When talking about high quality or a measure of correctness you must use “well”, because “good” is an adjective and not an adverb. “If the policies are written well, the auditor's report will be good.”

In, into

When you are going from the outside into the inside the correct word is “into”, because “in” means something is within something else. “Put the tapes into the box, which is in the library.”

Including, including but not limited to, including without limitation

If your list of items is a part of whatever is being considered, the list is “including” the items that follow. If your list of items is an incomplete set of examples, or something may have been left out, the list is “including, but not limited to” the items that follow. (However, since ''includes'' and its derivatives are not exhaustive, following it with '', but is not limited to,'' is redundant and invites misinterpretations elsewhere, unless used consistently.) If your list is complete, but each item in the list is to be read as expansively as possible, you are “including without limitation” (a concept that is not often found in policy writing). “There are many consequences to poor policy writing, including, but not limited to, compliance deficiencies, fines, and loss of employment (yours!).”


Just don't go there. The proper word is “regardless”. “Regardless of what anyone tells you, 'irregardless' is considered a non-standard or erroneous word.”

Loose, lose

Not being able to find something has nothing to do with it not being tight, which is what “loose” means. “You will lose your job writing policies, if your grammar continues to be loose.” (It's all about coherence, remember?)

Organization, not company

Never write about companies, always about organizations. Companies do not include hospitals, religious organizations, or the government. Therefore, always refrain from mentioning an organization as a company unless you are specifically naming a known company.

Principal, principle

If you're talking about the primary or most important thing, then “principal” is your adjective (and it needs a noun to modify). On the other hand, if you're referring to your organization's tenants, beliefs, or code of conduct, you're talking about “principles”. To round it out, “principal” the noun means that scary person whose office you avoided in grade school or the amount you owe on your mortgage before interest. “Being the principal policy writer for your organization makes you responsible for articulating the principles for behavior and compliance.”

Real, really, very

If you are talking about something in reality or that exists, then “really” is your word. If you want to denote that something is true or actual, you should pick “real” as your word. However, most of the time you probably mean “very”, because it means “exceedingly”. “I'm very glad you finished the documentation, because now our plan is real, and we are really ready.”

Set, sit

People and animals can “sit”, but objects, such as backup tapes, cannot, so when you want to talk about placing something, putting something, the act of setting something, or determining something you'll want to use “set”. “Set the alarm code on the door and set your coffee on the table, before you sit down at your desk.”

Such, said

Use the articles “a”, “an”, and “the” instead of the words “such” or “said”. (Do not write, “said setting was…” or “such papers are…” It is appropriate to use “such as” to express an example. Example:

The commission may take steps to provide compliance, such as ordering the applicant to submit a verified statement.

Do not use “any”, “each”, “every”, “all”, or “some”, if “a”, “an”, or “the” can be used with the same result.

Than, then

If you are comparing something, the correct word is “than”, because “then” means next or at that time. “Because tape is less expensive than are disks, we will use tape. When the price falls, then we will switch to disks.”

That, which, who

Place a comma before “which” and use it to introduce a nonrestrictive clause. A nonrestrictive clause is a clause that is not needed to clarify the meaning of the word that it modifies. Example:

The application, which need not be verified, must be signed by the applicant.

Use “that” to introduce a restrictive clause modifying the nearest antecedent. A restrictive clause is a clause that is needed to make clear the meaning of the word that it modifies. Example:

An application to renew a license that has been revoked must be signed by the applicant.

Use “who” to refer to people.


The security administrator, who wrote the procedures that we must follow, determines the anti-virus software that we must use.”

Try and, try to

None of us “try and” do anything; however we all “try to” do most things. In other words, just don't combine “try and” in your writing at all. “Please try to find all backup tapes going off site. If you do not have a total of six, the night shift operator will help you try to find six, and you should keep looking.”

You're, your

You're most often going to see this mistake as the result of poor proofreading of your document.

Establish and maintain a list of complex terms to be simplified. CC_ID 06163

Complex term

Simplified Term

at the place


at the same time


at the time


attempt (as a verb)


cause it to be done

have it done



commence, institute

start, begin





constitute and appoint


contiguous to

next to

do and perform


does not operate to

does not



during such time as


during the course of


endeavor (as a verb)


enter into a contract with

to contract with

evidence, documentary and otherwise




except that


excessive number of

too many



for the duration of

during or while

for the purpose of holding (or other gerund)

to hold (or comparable infinitive)

for the reason that






from July 1, 2005

after June 30, 2005

full and adequate OR full and complete



after this ... takes effect


before this takes effect

however or provided

if, unless, except or state the condition

in order to


in a case in which


in case


indicate (in the sense “to show”)





begin, start



in the event that


in the interest of


is able to


is applicable


is authorized and directed


is authorized to


is binding upon


is directed to


is empowered to


is entitled (in the sense of has the name)

is called

is required to


is unable to


it is the duty


it shall be lawful to





most, largest, greatest


least, smallest





negotiate (in the sense of enter into a contract)


no later than June 30, 2005

before July 1, 2005



occasion (as a verb)


of a technical nature


on and after July 1, 2005

after June 30, 2005

on the person's own application

at the person's own request

on or before June 30, 2005

before July 1, 2005

on the part of


or, in the alternative


party of the first part

(the party's name)

per annum

per year

per centum


period of time

period, time




have or had



prior or prior to

earlier or before (or immediately preceding)


go, go ahead


obtain, get

prosecute its business

carry on its business

provided that

as long as, if, unless, but or except

provision of law


purchase (as a verb)




render (in the sense of give)


render (in the sense of cause to be)


require (in the sense of need)




shall have the power to


specified (in the sense of expressly mentioned or listed)


State of (name of state)

the State’s name



subsequent to


suffer (in the sense of permit)


sufficient number of



send for, call

the Congress


the manner in which


to the effect that


under the provisions of


until such time as


utilize, employ (in the sense of use)




where in


within or without the United States

inside or outside the United States

with reference to


with the object of changing (or other gerund)

to change (or comparable infinitive)

Avoid utraquistic subterfuges. CC_ID 06105

Do not use the same word in 2 different ways in the same draft. Think of it this way: If your divorce papers say that your ex must forfeit funds you generously set aside for her in your divorce and that they must immediately go to the children if she remarries, and your divorce attorney didn't define the word “remarry” in your settlement papers to mean to marry someone else, your kids may have to support you if you decided to remarry your ex.

Define the terms being used. CC_ID 06106

Within compliance and governance documents, provide direct Dictionary references to all specific or technical words, or provide a link to the organization's Dictionary and acronyms list.

Define a new word if no existing word works. CC_ID 06107

If there is no right word, or if the available words carry with them too much baggage, invent a word or term and define it. So far there are two terms that the Unified Compliance Framework team has defined that did not exist previously:

Authority Documents is the term the UCF team gives the collection of bills, laws, regulations, safe harbors, best practice guidelines, audit guides, etc., that get mapped for reasons of compliance.

Compliance Documents is the term the UCF team gives the collection of organizational policies, standards, procedures, checklists, etc., that need to be established and maintained.

Define the use of singular versus plural in the sentence structure guidelines. CC_ID 06142

When writing of compliance documents, such as policies and procedures, if the control is specifically about a single type of record, specific organization, or single document, then use the single version of the word. When writing about a class of things (policies, procedures, requirements, services), then use the plural. Examples:

Ensure an independent third party retains documentation in escrow.

Ensure third-party providers have established personnel security requirements.

Define the use of command language and mood language in the sentence structure guidelines. CC_ID 06140

There is a lot of banter about the various meanings of modal verbs. Modal verbs are special verbs that behave differently from normal verbs in that they inflect conditions upon which an action is to take place.

First, let's make it clear that modal verbs should never be used in controls.

Now, the word “will” is the first of the modal verbs we are tackling herein. “Will” inflects the future intent of an act happening. Only use the word “will” when speaking of the future intent of a person or organization to do something. Otherwise, rewrite the sentence to describe the action taking place. Examples:

    • The organization will collect Form A beginning two weeks from now. (future)

    • The organization collects Form A as a part of input processing. (present)

The word “will” is never to be used as a compliance or governance directive, because its inflective intent is not to convey authority or duty to act. Replace it with must, shall, or should, as appropriate.

The word “can” is only to be used when speaking of the ability to do something. It is not to be confused with “may”, “should”, or “shall”. Example:

    • Define different ways a data subjects can give their consent. (the ability)

    • Define different ways a data subjects may give their consent. (the option)

As a general rule of thumb, use the following command language structures:

    • To create a condition precedent, use “must”.

    • To create a duty, use “shall”.

    • To create a right, use “is entitled to”.

    • To create discretionary authority, use “may”.

    • To create a non-mandatory suggestion, best practice, or audit guideline, use “should”.

    • To negate a duty or a condition precedent, use “is not required to”.

    • To create a duty not to act, use “shall not”.

    • To negate a right, use “is not entitled to”.

    • To negate discretionary authority, use “may not”.

    • To create a non-mandatory suggestion, best practice, or audit guideline not to act, use “should not”.

    • To create discretionary authority, use “may”.

    • To create a non-mandatory suggestion, best practice, or audit guideline, use “should”.

    • To negate discretionary authority, use “may not”.

    • To create a non-mandatory suggestion, best practice, or audit guideline not to act, use “should not”.

Define the use of judgment in the sentence structure guidelines. CC_ID 06156

Use ''considers'' rather than ''deems'' to indicate an exercise of judgment. Use ''shall treat'' or ''is deemed'' for legal fictions.

To the extent possible, avoid words importing gender.

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