Can you build a house without a blueprint? Technical writers are equally helpless if they are asked to “build” a document without any “specification sheets,” or “spec sheets” for short.
We use the term “sheet” but actually what we are referring to is just another multi-page document SPECIFYING the DETAILS of WHAT certain ITEMS in a LIST should LOOK LIKE. In essence, that’s what a “spec sheet” is all about.
When you write a Shopping List before you go to the shopping mall or the grocery store, you in fact create your very own “spec sheet” — a MARKETING spec sheet. It includes all the things that you would like to buy and not forget.
If you wanted to do a really thorough job, you could of course go ahead and write the DETAILS of every ITEM on the list as well.For example, your “marketing spec sheet” could read:
- SHIRT (blue, silk, with pocket, under $50)
- TOASTER (steel, 4-slice model, under $30)
But usually we keep the DETAILS in our minds and almost never write them down. It doesn’t mean such details do not exist. It’s just that we usually do not go that far in “specifying” our marketing needs.
In the hi-tech and software-hardware world, projects do not start until full and detailed “spec sheets” of all kinds are in hand.
There is the “marketing spec sheet,” for example, which is usually called MARKETING REQUIREMENT DOCUMENT (MRD) or the “Requirement Specs.”
“Functional Specs,” “Design Specs,” and “Testing Specs” are the other kinds of specs.
Spec sheets are like “maps” for the captain of a ship or the “blueprints” for an architect. No project can start without first putting the “specs” on paper.