Shall vs. Is - Don't use the term 'shall' in your quality manual



Shall vs. Is

In two of the ISO courses I took, the instructors said that you don't use the term "shall" in your quality manual, you say it as if it "is" being done. Ex. Design changes are reviewed, approved, and documented...rather than....Design changes shall be reviewed, approved, and documented.

I was very good about doing this in the QM and the earlier upper level procedures, but I find myself straying from it as I write some of the departmental procedures. The reason is that I'm writing these procedures specifically to address some problems that we're having and so the tone I've adopted is more of a "you will do it this way" than a "this is the way that we do this". For ex.: "When one of the offices is managing a contract that was bid out of another office, a job file shall be maintained by both offices."

Is this wrong? I find it really hard to always speak in the present because what I have to cover here are all the variables. Many times part of the sentence is something like:. .. "In these instances, the regional office shall continue to follow ....."



I think you are on the right track. In the QM, and top level doc's you are trying to codify what you do, thus you say "we do these things", for example, "Adequate resources ARE provided".

However when writing instructions, it needs to be more direct and active. I don't even like using "shall" in instructions. I prefer "will", or "must", or "needs to". They leave little room for squirm.

It really comes down to who you are writing to. The QM is written to those outside of the org. i.e. customers and registrars. Therefore you say "Yes we do these things". Procedures are internally addressed and you say, "This is HOW WE WILL do this thing." (and ve hav vays off meeking you:vfunny: )

Well enough of my rambling.

Anyone else?




A quick check of our consultant supplied QPM shows approx. 50% of it uses the word XXXXX “shall” and the other half says, XXXXXX “ensures that”. The QPM is written pretty much like the standard. As we have a lot of Consultants here at the Cove, as evidenced by the latest poll on Company size, what does use the word “shall” indicate to the rest of you? Managers are welcome. Inspectors. Anybody. For example, we say that in the event of a fire or emergency an alarm will be sounded and all employees “shall” assemble in the parking lot for attendance. There is no other choice. I guess we could say that company XXXXXXX assembles in the parking lot. This would be the Tier 2 document that Lucinda refers to. That appears to be talking to outside sources. Before I use the “Find and replace” feature in “Word”, can anybody else jump in here and tell me that this is really necessary. No disrespect Lucinda or James. But sometimes we have question things said in a classroom. The QPM is for use in the Company, more so than Customers who want a copy. No? It acts like a blueprint to locate procedures. No? I’m confused.

db, where is the shall?


Trusted Information Resource
Hi Lucinda,

My system is set-up along the lines described by James.

Policy manual states what we are doing....
Procedures are how we shall accomplish this.

Lots a Luck!




Originally posted by JRKH
...However when writing instructions, it needs to be more direct and active. I don't even like using "shall" in instructions. I prefer "will", or "must", or "needs to". They leave little room for squirm....

You may find this interesting...In the list of terms that I defined in the Quality Manual for use throughout our Quality System, I drew a distinction between the use of the word "shall" and "will".

"Shall" = Use of this word means the action described is mandatory; "Will" = Use of this word shows intent; use of this word means the action described is not mandatory.

Maybe I didn't need to do this but thought it might be prudent to provide an "out" for some actions that "should" be done but don't "have" to be done exactly that way, every time. And I confess that I lifted this out of another company's definitions:) thinking it was a good idea.

But "shall" is not used in my QM - Those statements are all affirmations that we "do" things as I described above.

Except for the temptation to use it in the body of my procedures, the only real home for it is in the Responsibilities section of each procedure. As in : The Procurement Manager shall: (bullet) ensure XXXX (bullet) ensure XXXX, etc.

E Wall

Just Me!
Trusted Information Resource
I'll ante up with my 5 cents....

I cannot believe we're alone here, but our manual isn't just written for is our core Management tool. Simply, it is the foundation that directs, and is supported by, all of our processes. Every new staff member is told to read it, learn what is applicable to their functions, and review it and any associated procedures periodically (this usually happens before an internal audit that includes thier involvment).

The manual we have uses both phrases "to ensure" and "shall ensure". The most recent update (now posted on an intranet) does a much better job of stating what is done and then provides the hyperlinks to a referenced QC Procedure, but it too includes shall statements.

Brief Example:
Standard states: "The supplier shall review..."
Our QM states: "It is XXX policy to review all..." then goes on to say "The review process shall ensure that...."

We are working on putting all plant level WI on the intranet also and, as applicable, hyperlinks will be created in the QCPs leading to WI for each facility (goal is to standardize whenever feasible). This will actually happen as we each transition to the y2k version.

Energy: There is no requirement that you not use shalls in your QM. It is up to you and how you use the word (IMHO).

Alf Gulford

Gotta go with Eileen, here. We emphasize that the Quality Manual is for our people to use (not that they do, much) as well as a potential marketing tool.

I've had auditors that say we shouldn't use the word and others don't seem to care one way or another. We use it when it fits and don't worry about it.


Hey, what gives here? My picture was supposed to show up this time. I read the instructions on Avatars and thought I had it figured out. I guess when you grow up using slide rules instead of computers, it takes a little longer to get these things right.

And besides that, I'm sure I saw some mention of a bottle of whiskey when you pass the 100 entry mark.
Last edited by a moderator:


Shall? Will?

Originally posted by energy
db, where is the shall

I wasn’t going to respond to this thread, but seeing as though energy is going to demean my character (by challenging me to respond)….Actually considering my “Where’s the Shall”, I understand his comment. :biglaugh:

To some “shall” indicates future tense. To others “shall” indicates a legal requirement. To me, I really don’t care if you use “shall”, “will”, “does” or whatever. Isn’t the important thing to have an effective system?

I recommend using present tense when it makes sense, and future tense where it makes sense. Please don’t get too wrapped up in the linguistics! The importance of words diminishes with the effectiveness of the system. If it works with “shall”, use shall, if it works with “do” use do. If it doesn’t work, fix it.

Good enough, energy?


Slide Rule


What's a slide rule? Was it used to measure 8-tracks?:vfunny:
(I still have mine, too)

Alf Gulford

Slide Rule #1

The first kid on the playground gets to be the first one on the slide.


And just to go you one better, my 1960 Ford Convertible (Red, of course) had a 4 track. The sound was OK but you couldn't get a whole album on one.
Top Bottom