7 Tips How to Write a Better Contractual Correspondence
Letters are the most important record documents for any construction project. These correspondences open a window on what happened in detail during each phase of the project.
Therefore, they are relied upon during claims and arbitration, and as such, they should be drafted with utmost care to make it count when it is needed. Here are 7 tips on how to write a better, more effective letter during a construction project's contract administration:
Be concise, clear and to the point
Letters should be very clear, stating facts explicitly, along with any substantiation, and stating clearly what actions are required by the other party, along with any time frame for doing so. Notices should, ideally, be clearly identified as such, with reference to the clause(s) which they are sent under.
Don't take it personally
Like claims, letters should not be taken personally. It is official correspondence between two companies, and is bound to the contract, not a duel with your counterpart.
Write for third parties
In case of arbitration, or a claim review, letters and other contractual correspondence are usually studied by persons that are not very familiar with the project. Accordingly, letters should be structured and drafted in a way that avoid using project-specific terminology and abbreviations, and should be designed to be used as a standalone document.
Always refer to the intended part of any document referred to in the letter. For example, a sentence such as (your letter dated ... in which you stated that "insert quote from the letter") makes life easier for any one reading the letter, and avoids any ambiguity or mis-interpretation.
Subtantiate your statements
Fully substantiate any statement made in a letter. A poorly substantiated statment carries no weight, even if there is some truth to it. For example:
(The Contractor has promised that he will submit ...) does not mention or provide any proof or document that the contractor has actually made the promise. A much better sentence is:
(The Contractor has mentioned in his letter dated ... that "quote the statement"). That way your letter is more detail and fact oriented, which is more effective than a subjective letter not properly substantiated.
Refer to the contract
Quotes from the contract give your letter much more power. Furthermore, always mention the name of the clause/sub-clause you are mentioning, and in case of FIDIC or other standard contracts, mention whether this clause has been amended in the particular conditions or otherwise. Referring to "Sub-Clause 20.1 [Contractor's Claims]" is much better than leaving a reader trying to guess what "Sub-Clause 20.1" is about.
Proof-read the letter several times
Issuing a document with a glaring error or a typo may be very embarrasing. Proof reading any document several times, and ideally by different persons, allows the elimination of errors and improvment of the letter's content.