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Chris Breisch   .NET Data Practices
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Earlier, and earlier still, I blogged about this series from Tyner Blain on Writing Good Requirements.  They've now surpassed the Big Ten conference and added a twelfth rule.

The Big Ten Rules - Writing Stylish Requirements

(no, this doesn't mean that you write them in black or whatever "the new black" is)

Here they're talking about the style you use for your writing.  They break it down into several categories, three of which stick out to me:

Prioritize Explicitly

In More About Software Requirements by Karl Weigers, he pointed out his dissatisfaction with the way some teams capture prioritization implicitly in their requirements through the use of shall / should / may language. “Shall” requirements are high priority, “should” requirements are medium priority, and “may” requirements are low priority.

Ugh. What a horrible idea. I had not seen anyone doing this. Karl’s right, this is an awful idea. Especially when teams involve people who don’t share the same native language or culture. Priority should be called out explicitly.

I have seen someone do this.  I don't want to talk about it anymore than that.  It's just too painful.

Non-Negative Waves

Another great suggestion from Karl. Don’t write requirements in the negative, write them in the positive. A couple examples:

  • “The system shall not permit orders with more than 1000 items.” Write this as “The system shall only permit orders with 1000 or fewer items.”
  • “The user shall not be able to access data to which he does not have sufficient authorization.” Write this as “The user shall only be able to access authorized data.”

Been there.  Done that.  Same PM as mentioned above, actually.

Pick The Best Perspective

Some requirements are written “The system shall…” and others are written “The user shall…” These two approaches represent two different perspectives. In an ideal world, one perspective or the other would be most appropriate for all of the requirements within a document. We would also have free energy, world peace, and total enlightenment.

This is just good common sense.  As is the whole article.  Read it and the rest of the series.

Posted on Monday, March 26, 2007 7:36 AM Architecture | Back to top

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