"Column this for is opinion editors of." Did this sentence make sense to you? It is confusing because I didn't follow the standards involved in making a coherent sentence. What I meant was: "This column is for the opinion of editors." I have an opinion I want to tell you about. Maybe you share it. You may have the same frustration I hear from many of our readers.

I wish everyone in this business would learn and use our industry standards. We have standard symbols, but I come across invented ones all the time. We have standards for making a good drawing, but good drawings are going the way of low taxes. What about electronic standards? Why do so many firms crank out CAD drawings that are not precise? "Draw on the grid? Surely, you jest!"

We have standard work practices, standards for cable routing, and standards for testing and measurement. These standards represent the combined wisdom of our field's experts. I think ignoring standards is the mark of an amateur. It's also the mark of someone who costs the rest of us a lot of money. I used to work for an industrial services firm that lost business to cheaper companies that cut corners by not following standards. We lost revenue, but so did the companies that commissioned the substandard work, because the substandard work we refused to do caused production failures. Our repeat business was excellent, though I can't say the same for those "cheap outfits." We have standards for good reasons.

Consider the NEC. This document sets the minimum standard for the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. I still can't figure out why so many people have a problem with that. Is there some advantage to not safeguarding persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity-maybe some kind of population reduction initiative? I'm not sure I want to know about it.

I have a friend who is a facilities engineer. He's contacted me several times about a power quality problem. The symptoms scream out "grounding and bonding!" Yet, whenever I ask if he got someone to make sure his system conforms to Art. 250, the answer is always "No." I'm not claiming the NEC fixes all problems. However, if your system doesn't comply with this standard, why bother going any further with your troubleshooting?

Standards allow us to speak the same language. Standards allow us to use the wisdom of others. Standards often prevent reinventing the wheel. Standards promote efficiency. Standards promote safety. Why do so many people not follow standards?

In the mid-1980s, I had the privilege of working with a mechanical engineer who was a perfectionist. She was in charge of reviewing all CAD drawings. Not only did the information have to be correct in terms of content, it also had to follow her long list of aesthetic standards. Consequently, all drawings had a similar look and feel. Is this important? It depends on how professional you want to look.

If you are in business for yourself, looking professional has obvious advantages. Granted, many businesses are hiring less qualified (and even unqualified) people at cut rates. However, if you are out to build repeat business, you can't appear unprofessional. And you can't succeed long-term in business by competing on price alone.

Don't let the loss of an occasional job or project lure you into the world of substandard or nonstandard work. If you work as part of a firm, you can't afford to do sloppy work in this age of downsizing. You need a reputation as someone who knows how to do the job right, someone who values efficiency-not someone who poorly reinvents the wheel. As for me, I'd rather follow the industry standards. Once I asked my father (who coauthored a standards article with me in this issue), "Why do we have to do it this way?" He simply replied: "Because that's the way we do things." And sometimes that's all I need to know.