How to Edit an RFI

This is a follow-up on how to write an RFI. That article covers a general overview on writing an RFI. This one goes into more depth on the details of how to write and edit an RFI.

The ability to clearly explain a problem is an invaluable skill. If we want to get good answers and keep our projects on schedule, our questions must be clear and easy to understand.

Never underestimate the power of simplicity. Don’t be easy to understand; be impossible to misunderstand.

Steve Sims

Have the goal of being impossible to misunderstand when writing an RFI. Make it a goal that anyone, even someone without intimate knowledge of your project, can read your RFI and easily understand your question.

Three Reasons RFIs are Unclear

  1. Insufficient knowledge of the problem
  2. Poor communication style
  3. Lack of supporting material such as photos, sketches, etc.

Insufficient Knowledge

If you don’t fully understand the problem, keep working and asking questions until you have a better grasp of the situation. Read any related documents such as contract drawings, specifications, and email.

If the question is coming from another party, ask for more questions and clarification before you relay the question.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough

Albert Einstein

Poor Communication

Consider using these methods to improve your communication style.

  • Utilize bullet points
  • Use short sentences
  • Focus on asking one specific question
  • Remove any content not directly impacting the question
  • Ask a colleague to read your RFI. Then ask them to explain your question back to you.

Lack of Supporting Material

Include a simple sketch, photo, screenshot, or markup of the contract drawings to illustrate the problem or question.

This makes it easier for anyone reading the RFI to quickly see the problem. It saves time by having the details attached to the document instead of searching for them.

You, or someone else, may often come back to your RFI several months later. By this time you may have forgotten the specifics of the problem. Having supporting material attached allows you to quickly review the problem and get back up to speed.

An Example of Writing and Editing an RFI

Here is an example RFI from one of our projects. The original draft was written by one of our newer team members. They did a good job of writing the basic problem and explaining it clearly. However, it included a lot of unnecessary words that were not directly related to the question.

When editing we have the goal of being clear, concise, and correct as explained in how to write an RFI. You can see that the final version is more clear, concise, and correct in comparison to the original draft.

Original Draft of the RFI

Per Plans, drawing S-5 and detail 3/S-10 show security grills to be installed at skylight areas. Per typical detail 12/S-7 shows the use of ½” galvanized round bar to be welded to each other to create the grill pattern.

Welding the round bars will create distortion in the bars by which they will lose their straightness. Due to this, the final grill will also be distorted and will not sit flush with the ‘L’ angle frame per detail 3/S-10.

In lieu, we would like to propose the use of ½” steel plate, CNC cut to match the grill pattern, which will then be welded to the ‘L’ angle frame and then galvanized.

Please advise if the proposal is acceptable or provide an alternate solution.

The Editing Process

Per Plans, drawing S-5 and detail 3/S-10 show security grills to be installed at skylight areas. Per typical detail 12/S-7 shows the use of ½” galvanized round bar to be welded to each other to create the grill pattern.

Welding the round bars will create [may cause] distortion in the bars by which they will lose their straightness [due to excessive heat input]. Due to this, the final grill will also [may] be distorted and will [may] not sit flush with the ‘L’ angle frame per detail 3/S-10.

In lieu, we would like to propose the use of ½” steel plate, CNC cut to match the grill pattern, which will then be welded to the ‘L’ angle frame and then galvanized [see the attached sketch].

Please advise if the proposal is acceptable or provide an alternate solution.

Typically we ask the reviewer to provide a solution. In this case, we wanted to use our own solution and didn’t ask for alternative options.

The Final RFI

Drawing S-5 and detail 3/S-10 show security grills. Typical detail 12/S-7 shows the use of ½” round bar welded to create the grill pattern.

Welding the round bars may cause distortion due to the excessive heat input. Due to this, the grill may be distorted and may not sit flush with the angle frame per detail 3/S-10.

In lieu, we would like to propose the use of ½” steel plate, cut to match the grill pattern, see the attached sketch.

Please advise if the proposal is acceptable.

These are images of some of the documents we attached to our RFI to help illustrate our question and proposed solution.

Original Grill Detail
This is the original detail from the contract drawing.
This is the sketch we provided with an alternate detail.

Final Thoughts

  • By editing we eliminated more than 40 unnecessary words.
  • We added and changed some phrases to improve clarity and accuracy.
  • The final RFI is more clear and concise.
  • Our proposal was approved, resulting in a better quality product for the owner and some cost savings for us.

Other RFI Resources

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