When reading the IEC standards, I often see a phrase like Guidance for ... can be found in... or Section ... gives guidance on how ....
More concretely, some examples:

Guidance for lightning protection of a SWT can be found in document IEC 61400-24.
Guidance for test procedures and evaluation of tests may be found in IEC 61400-13.

It is not clear to me whether it is mandatory to follow the guidance (i.e. it is a requirement) or that it is optional to follow it (i.e. it is a recommendation).

I found this IEC page indicating how shall and should relate to requirements and recommendation respectively, however, I am unable to find anything on what guidance precisely means.

Is this something EL&U.SE can help me with?

I hope that this question falls under "Word choice and usage" and therefore is within the scope of this site. If not, I would be glad to hear if another SE would be more suitable.

  • It is not a requirement. It is like a manual on how to proceed. It will contain instructions/suggestions on what you are supposed to do or have in order to peoceed. guidance for filling out the form means instructions for filling out the form. Although, guidance may as well mean how one is required to fill out that document.
    – vickyace
    Mar 21, 2017 at 9:52
  • 2
    ... I think that (vickyace's comment) means 'I've just realised I don't know how they're using the word.' Since dictionaries give the 'requirement' sense (via 'direction', defined in at least one dictionary as 'an authoritative order or command') as well as the 'helpful advice' sense, the only way to check on the intended usage is to ask people who are aware of the authors' intentions. Preferably the authors. This is a matter of local definition of terms rather than general English usage. Mar 21, 2017 at 10:21
  • Please provide a paragraph or two with the ellipses filed in. That would help provide context for how the word is used.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 21, 2017 at 10:33
  • In my own sphere, while guidance may only be advisory, its existence does mean that if there is any question on whether something had been done as required one would need a very good reason to have not followed appropriate guidance, and be able to spell out why the procedures one had followed instead were comparable and acceptable.
    – Spagirl
    Mar 21, 2017 at 11:09

3 Answers 3


The guidance, as the word itself means, is the help and advice about how to do something or about how to deal with problems connected with your work, education, or personal relationships. It is the general information about a task and includes mandatory requirements and optional recommendations.

The IEC page provided by the OP clearly explains them all.

Requirement - A requirement is defined as follows in the published version of these directives:

expression in the content of a document conveying objectively verifiable criteria to be fulfilled and from which no deviation is permitted if compliance with the document is to be claimed.

Recommendation - A recommendation is defined as follows in the published version of these directives:

expression in the content of a document conveying a suggested possible choice or course of action deemed to be particularly suitable without necessarily mentioning or excluding others.


mahmud koya's answer is good. I'll just offer a slightly different way to express it. Guidance is neither requirements nor recommendations, it's tangential to them. Requirements are things that must or must not be done. Recommendations are suggestions of things that are optional. Those two terms cover the "what".

Somebody reading the "what" will say, "OK, but how do you expect me to accomplish those?" Guidance is the suggested "how".

Guidance, itself, has a sense of requirement vs. recommendation to it, but it is more of a "safe harbor". When the requirements and recommendations were developed, certain kinds of things were envisioned. People are creative and like to push boundaries and think outside the box. So there might be unanticipated things that aren't clearly covered by the requirements and recommendations.

Say I arrive upon the situation simply wanting to be in compliance and don't necessarily know what was the original thinking behind the requirements and recommendations. Am I expected to reinvent the wheel and take a chance on whether my approach will pass muster? Or figure something out and then submit it to some regulatory body for pre-approval?

Generally, that's an option if somebody has a novel approach that they want to pursue. But the guidance is there for those who simply want to get things done in a way that is guaranteed to be acceptable.

The guidance reflects what has already been thought about and is the typical way to accomplish what is covered in the requirements and recommendations. "If you do it in this way, you're safe."


It depends on the context. I am familiar with a context in which "guidance" defines what is legally required. I will describe it, but the bottom line is that you will need to ask the appropriate authorities for your situation, in order to be sure.

The State of New York issues "guidance" from time to time about, for example, special education. There is a "Special Education Quality Assurance" office ("SEQA"), whose associates know the "guidance" like the back of their hand. If a special education parent calls SEQA with a complaint, and the SEQA associate detects that the school district in question is not in compliance with the "guidance," then the associate calls the district's director of special education, and explains what is required.

I have seen federal "guidance" from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, and from the federal Office of Special Education (OSEP) carry weight in special education legal decisions, as well.

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