PPP15 Specification Writing

Effective 11/16/00
Replaces 3/10/99


State purchasing policy requires detailed specifications for bids or proposals when commodities are not available on State, UW-System or UW-Madison contract.

Vendors who draft or develop specifications for departments will be excluded from the procurement process to eliminate unfair competitive advantage.


The department contact person should provide specifications for the product or service and attach the specifications to the requisition.

2.1 Specifications should be non-manufacturer specific to allow for competition, (SEE STATE PROCUREMENT MANUAL PRO-202 AND PRO-304).

2.2 Specifications should be described in precise terms or words. All abbreviations and acronyms must be defined in the bid document.

Use “shall/must” wherever a specification expresses a requirement binding on either the contractor or the purchaser. Bidders who cannot meet a “shall/must” specification must be eliminated during bid evaluations. Use “should” and/or “may” to express non-mandatory provisions. Use “will” to express a declaration of purpose on the part of the purchaser.

2.3 Specifications must contain all the minimum requirements. These requirements may or may not include the following:

  • Sizes: Dimensions for manufactured products, clothing sizes, weights. Express as a range rather than a specific, wherever possible; e.g., 1″-1.5″ wide.
  • Units: E.g., case, box, unit of purchase, each, dozen, gross.
  • Performance specification: Describe minimum/maximum operation; e.g., number of copies per minute, -30 to -100 Centigrade.
  • Compatibility requirements: Describe existing equipment with which the requested equipment or material must interface or integrate.
  • Tolerance specification: Measurements expressed as a range.
  • Composition specification: Identify materials which must be used in the manufacturing process.
  • Maintenance Requirements.
  • Warranty/Extended Warranty Requirements.

All measurements, dimensions, gauges, capacities, size designations, volumes, temperatures, grades, ratings, etc. should be specified in accordance with established precedent and trade practices. Minimum/maximum or plus/minus requirements should be used whenever possible. If required, submit blueprints, drawings, graphs, etc.


If you have any questions regarding specification writing, please contact the purchasing agent of record via e-mail, memo or phone call, or Purchasing Services reception at 262-1526 and you will be routed.


When it is necessary to use trade names to communicate a needed level of quality, performance or compatibility, the department must provide written justification along with the requisition. The specifications must give at least two, preferably three, examples of trade names of articles purchased in the past which are acceptable. The rationale for using trade names will be documented in the bid file.


State Procurement Manual PRO-202 and PRO-304.
Federal Procurement Standards A110.