GBA Updates Popular Document: AVOIDING ABSOLUTES

Resource Collaboration Committee

GBA just published a Best Practices document titled Avoiding Absolutes. This is an update from a Practice Alert of the same name that was published  many years ago to help our members improve technical writing and verbal communication skills in managing their risks. It is not lost on us that there is irony in using the term “Best Practices” for a document addressing the risks of using absolutes. Please view GBA “Best Practices” as a collection of wise practices that adapt and grow to keep up with the times. They can always be improved and we invite your related input. It is in this spirit that we offer this update.

Absolutes are words that connote an extreme condition; e.g., absolutely no exceptions. They are most commonly thought of as modifiers – adjectives and adverbs – but also occur as nouns, pronouns, and verbs. In common or colloquial parlance, they usually are harmless. However, when they are used by professionals within an instrument of professional service, correspondence, or other written communication (electronic or otherwise), or when they are spoken by professionals while acting in a professional capacity, absolutes are almost always inappropriate.

  Caution when using absolutes should extend beyond client relations and project work to include communications with staff. The best strategy to avoid the pitfalls of absolutes is to not use them, even in casual conversation, unless you are willing to be held to the “highest” standards of professional scrutiny.