Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) B. Leiba
Request for Comments: 8174 Huawei Technologies
BCP: 14 May 2017
Category: Best Current Practice
Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words
RFC 2119 specifies common key words that may be used in protocol
specifications. This document aims to reduce the ambiguity by
clarifying that only UPPERCASE usage of the key words have the
defined special meanings.
Status of This Memo
This memo documents an Internet Best Current Practice.
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(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on
BCPs is available in Section 2 of RFC 7841.
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Table of Contents
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
2. Clarifying Capitalization of Key Words . . . . . . . . . . . 3
3. IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
4. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
5. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Author's Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
RFC 2119 specifies common key words, such as "MUST", "SHOULD", and
"MAY", that may be used in protocol specifications. It says that the
key words "are often capitalized," which has caused confusion about
how to interpret non-capitalized words such as "must" and "should".
This document updates RFC 2119 by clarifying that only UPPERCASE
usage of the key words have the defined special meanings. This
document is part of BCP 14.
2. Clarifying Capitalization of Key Words
The following change is made to [RFC2119]:
=== OLD ===
In many standards track documents several words are used to signify
the requirements in the specification. These words are often
capitalized. This document defines these words as they should be
interpreted in IETF documents. Authors who follow these guidelines
should incorporate this phrase near the beginning of their document:
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
"SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this
document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.
=== NEW ===
In many IETF documents, several words, when they are in all capitals
as shown below, are used to signify the requirements in the
specification. These capitalized words can bring significant clarity
and consistency to documents because their meanings are well defined.
This document defines how those words are interpreted in IETF
documents when the words are in all capitals.
o These words can be used as defined here, but using them is not
required. Specifically, normative text does not require the use
of these key words. They are used for clarity and consistency
when that is what's wanted, but a lot of normative text does not
use them and is still normative.
o The words have the meanings specified herein only when they are in
o When these words are not capitalized, they have their normal
English meanings and are not affected by this document.
Authors who follow these guidelines should incorporate this phrase
near the beginning of their document:
The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL
NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED",
"MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as
described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they
appear in all capitals, as shown here.
=== END ===
3. IANA Considerations
This document does not require any IANA actions.
4. Security Considerations
This document is purely procedural; there are no related security
5. Normative References
[RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,
Phone: +1 646 827 0648