Book Review: Microsoft Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers, 2nd Ed

Microsoft Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers, 2nd edition, by email hidden; JavaScript is required, PhD and email hidden; JavaScript is required, PhD.

ISBN: 978-1-890586-24-9
eISBN: 978-1-890586-25-6
Publisher: Piedmont Medical Writers LLC; 2 edition (March 13, 2013)

General overview

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . XI
Chapter 1: Setting Word Options to Avoid Problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Chapter 2: Working with Styles and Formatting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Chapter 3: Understanding Page Breaks, Document Sections, and Headers/Footers
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Chapter 4: Working with Fields and TOCs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Chapter 5: Using Cross-References and Automatic Numbering . . . . . . . . . . . . 89
Chapter 6: Working with Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107
Chapter 7: Understanding and Using Templates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Chapter 8: Additional Topics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .151
Chapter 9: Techniques—the Good the Bad and the Ugly. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191

An alternate title for this book could be, Writer Learns How to Manage Microsoft Word and is Thereby Able to Retain Sanity and Write Another Day.

I have worked as a technical writer for about a decade and before that was a typical (read naive), user of Microsoft Word, using it to write office memos, letters, resumes and other relatively unsophisticated documents. For several early years of using Word I was clueless in that I had no solid awareness of the can of worms under the hood that await the more ambitious professional writer.

Book cover for Word 2010 for Medical and Technical Writers -- Second Edition

Only when I started earning a living as a technical writer did I come to the realization that Word has so much more going on. Word has features galore, many of which are silently tucked away and only surface when the sophisticated user runs into an issue and starts digging/delving into all the dialog boxes submerged in the application. Peter G. Aitken and Maxine M. Okazaki put forth a book that attempts to save you from learning stuff the hard way. They identify numerous things to avoid and then define best practices when using Word.

When I came to write this review I thought hurray! There are earth people who have managed to tame this beast and they will share their silver bullets of survival and success for all us struggling humans now using Word. They have put forth a valiant effort.

The book states that there are features of Word that have unintended or undesired consequences or that work in unintuitive ways. I have to say I entirely relate to this evaluation and find it a real pain at times to have to massage a document to get it to behave. Life is challenging enough most days working with and managing people so I’d rather not have to expend a huge amount of precious energy wrestling with a document. Still, even the best technical writers likely spend time doing this on occasion.

Basically this book points out the imperfections of Word and ways to cope with many of them. Frankly, I find these authors graciously forgiving of this ubiquitous word processing application that has taken over the office everywhere I’ve been employed. One example of their generosity is this:

Chapter 1: Setting Word Options to Avoid Problems

Aitken and Okazaki recommend that when you, the professional writer, receive back a large document that someone has gone through with Track Changes on and made their edits/feedback, the professional writer is better off going back to their ORIGINAL document and manually incorporating these changes into it. Though I recognize how someone arrives at this preference (as this is a safer approach) to me it is maddening that we have a world where such a basic feature as Track Changes is so problematic as to be rendered Best To Avoid and the technical / medical writer is reduced to doing manual editing. I find this level of forgiveness accommodating for such a large and successful operation as Microsoft and I still long for a word processing application that has more stable features that one can use with confidence.

The book starts at an admirable spot—offering immediate relief to those who need to begin using the application and would like to get stuff established at the gate to circumvent the drama and tantrums Word is able to deliver. I entirely concur that technical writers want to (need to) have complete control over their documents and therefore the more choices you can define that put the writer in the driver’s seat the better.

The book has a good number of screen shots of dialog boxes that are critical in a book of this nature.

The authors have identified what they believe are the most salient (i.e., prone to bring you to the brink of agitance) parts of Word for a technical / medical writer and they are

  1. Styles *
  2. Page breaks
  3. Document sections
  4. Headers and footers *
  5. Fields
  6. Table of contents
  7. Cross references
  8. Automatic numbering *
  9. Tables *
  10. Templates *

This is a competent selection of naughty features in Word. I have placed an asterisk after those above topics I personally have found problematic until I managed to figure out the method behind the scene.

Because of the limits in scope this book undertakes, none of these ten categories listed above are covered in the depth some readers might prefer.

Chapter 2: Working with Styles and Formatting

Word has five style types:

  1. Paragraph styles
  2. Character styles
  3. Linked styles
  4. Table styles
  5. List styles

Every technical writer needs to understand the distinctions of these styles so that they are applied in the manner in which they preform to your expectation. Normal is the base built-in Word style and is treated differently from other styles. Writers are advised to NOT base their styles on Normal. Wrong style assignments are the source of many formatting problems so the book demos how to view all styles used by setting the Style Area Width option to a value greater than the default of zero.

A style is a set of formatting that can be defined and applied to text in a document. Styles include font choices, indents, line spacing, borders, background shading, custom tabs and more.

It is important to know how to define and use a new style. This book leads the reader to make good choices to arrive at the desired result. A common definition (choice) of a style would be BodyText used for regular paragraphs in a typical document. When chosen, the writer also needs to choose the font and size of this style designation. The book recommends that when creating your new style, the style you designate is not based on an existing style nor do you want to base your new style on the Normal style. Aitken and Okazaki point out that “most aspects of style definitions are accessed via the Format button in the ‘create new style’ or ‘create new style from formatting’ dialog box.”

Did you know Word supports five kinds of tab stops? The book explains each.

Chapter 3: Understanding Page Breaks, Document sections, and Headers/Footers

Technical and medical writers find out that as a document becomes more complex (and lengthens) knowing how these features work and are related is necessary for a happy ending. Word’s default is to insert an automatic page break wherever they are needed. But writers can use a manual page break at any location. Page breaks and section breaks are under the Page Layout tab. Keep in mind, once you use a manual page break you will always get a page break at that location even if you move stuff around and a page break that once made sense no longer is appropriate. Often times a section break is the best choice when you are considering entering a manual page break.

Proper use of section breaks (of which there are four types to choose from) enables the document to accommodate certain things you want to do and still remain a cohesive whole.

Each section of your document can have these aspects defined as a new and independent part of the other document sections: page margins/paper size, orientation, and source/page borders/vertical alignment/headers and footers/columns/page and line numbering and footnotes and endnotes.

Chapter 4: Working with Fields and TOCs

Writers should understand how fields work or things can get messy on you. Fields are generally used to represent information in your document that is likely to change (date, TOC, pages). Fields do not update automatically (except for page numbers). Fields can be updated in several ways:

  1. Right-click and select Update or click the field and press F9.
  2. Select a block of text, right click, and select Update Field.
  3. Press Ctrl+A to select ALL text in the document, then press F9. This will NOT update fields in headers/footers.
  4. When you print the document, all fields are updated, but only if the Update Fields option is selected in the print category of the options dialog box.

Throughout the book are shaded boxes with lessons learned insights where the authors give tips that can keep your writing life more peaceful. Here is one: when you have a document where you are using Track Changes it is recommended you turn this OFF before updating your fields. Reason—a field update is treated as a deletion of the former field value and an insertion of the new one, and Track Changes will note each and every one, likely not something you would want done.

It is advised to have Field viewing be set to ‘Always’ which means All Fields are always shaded to enable awareness of where fields are in the document.

Document Properties

I had a job once where the boss was really big on having this information included so I’d recommend technical writers understand this area. There are two parts to document properties:

  1. Basic properties – a panel appears on the ribbon that enables the insertion/naming of the most commonly used document properties to include: Author, Title, Subject, keywords, category, status and comments.
  2. Advanced properties– a dialog box displays providing access to all document properties. Here you can define Custom Properties using the Custom tab. These are additional document properties one can identify: created by/client/date completed/Dept./destination/disposition/Division/document number/editor/forward to/group/language/mailstop/matter/office/owner/project/publisher/purpose/received from/recorded by/recorded date/reference/source/status/telephone number/typist.

Chapter 4 goes into a good deal of detail on table of contents including troubleshooting errors in a TOC.

Chapter 5: Using Cross-References and Automatic Numbering

Cross references have never been problematic for me but numbering can be tricky and ugly until you master it.

Types of cross-references:

  • A heading: Any paragraph formatted with one of Word’s built-in heading styles
  • A numbered item
  • A bookmark: Any text that has been defined as a bookmark
  • A footnote or endnote
  • A caption for a figure, table or equation that was created with the insert caption command.

Numbering is not for the faint of heart. Aitken and Okazaki write, “Word has powerful but often confusing numbering tools.” This is more polite than I’d rank the experience of getting numbering to work in a complex document, but it can be done. It is recommended that the writer create a paragraph style for numbered lists and use this style in place of Word’s default lists. The book proceeds to walk you through 12 steps that will accomplish a paragraph style for a numbered list.

Numbered Heading Levels are covered. This is alternatively known as outline numbered headings.

Assigning Outline Numbering to heading styles is an option for those who want it their way. The book lists steps to accomplish this approach.

How to number chapters in a book is discussed.

Chapter 6: Working with Tables

Aitken and Okazaki award this area of Word as the numero uno headache! Pages 107 through 138 attempt to relieve your angst from reading the proceeding sentence.

Covered here are: Table Fundamentals, Creating a Table, Navigating in Tables, Adding/Deleting Table rows and columns, Column width and row height, table options, merging and splitting cells, merging and splitting tables, formatting tables, table captions, working with Multipage tables, tables and page breaks, Pasting tables into Word and ending with Troubleshooting tables. In my experience this pretty much covers how to conquer tables, but I could be wrong as Word sometimes has a mind of its own.

Chapter 7: Understanding and Using Templates

Templates are discussed in Chapter 7 though not in the detail I was hoping for.

As with many aspects of Word management by a writer, styles are closely connected to Word templates so it behooves the writer to get informed about what a template really is and when and how to use them.

A basic skill of a technical writer is to know the workings of using templates. Every Word document is based on a template. The default template is the Normal template which contains only a few basic styles. It is advised to avoid basing any technical documents on the Normal template because it will prove to be too limited for your ultimate needs. A good template can make work smoother. These are the elements found in a template:

  1. Styles
  2. Boilerplate text
  3. Custom toolbars
  4. Macros
  5. Shortcut key definitions
  6. Auto text entries
  7. Margins and other page setup options

Life can begin to resemble of bowl of rotten cherries when you are given a template from a client that was done without the requisite skills to create a working, viable template. You may find yourself morphing such a template to get it to perform as advertised. Aitken and Okazaki say that all that is required to create a good template is planning, care, experience and a thorough knowledge of Word. It is this last item that does make the creation of a Good template no minor feat. Some good caveats are put forth when working with templates.

Chapter 8: Additional Topics

Chapter 8 contains pearls of wisdom that just didn’t fit elsewhere in book: Pages 151 to 180. Covered in this chapter:

  1. Customizing Word
  2. Working with Track Changes
  3. Using special characters and symbols
  4. Inserting symbols
  5. Linking to external data
  6. Understanding Paste Special
  7. Inserting data from Excel
  8. Inserting and positioning Graphics

All are useful to understand these topics better and after reading this chapter you will know more and perform stronger with the application.

Chapter 9: Techniques—the Good the Bad and the Ugly

Chapter 9 concludes the book. It includes

  1. Dos and Don’ts – I always find these kinds of lists fun to read
  2. Being Smart about Backups – this is Very Important—remember that day you lost a document!!!!
  3. Minimizing Problems – Yes, please enable me to minimize problems!!!!
  4. Handy Keystrokes – who doesn’t like to save time and impress someone with a keystroke the other guy has never seen.
  5. Ordering Information – how to get a copy of this book and the formats available to choose from Print/Kindle/Nook or as a PDF.

It is my wish that your work as a technical writer will be enhanced and improved after this book has entered your collection.

© 2013 Peggy A Lucero. Noncommercial reprint rights granted with inclusion of copyright notice. Reprint rights available upon request.

Patent Careers for Technical Writers, Engineers, Scientists, and Medical Professionals

photo of Steven Oppenheimer
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[Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2008 in Oppenheimer Communications in six parts. Later, it was published with permission by Harrison Turner of the STC East Bay chapter in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. I have received permission from Harrison and Steve, to republish this on our site. Thank you both! —Cynthia Lockley]

Steven is currently working as a Registered Patent Agent, USPTO Reg. # 57,418, in Washington D.C. His personal patents site is Oppenheimer Patents


After working more than fifteen years as a freelance technical writer, I discovered another career option that draws heavily on my technical writing background and potentially offers significantly better remuneration.

The purpose of this article is to help technical writers, engineers, scientists (physical, chemical, and biological sciences), and medical professionals decide if they want to explore this option.

What Is a Patent Agent?

Let’s start by defining patent and patent agent.

A patent is a legal document that describes a new invention. It characterizes those aspects of the invention that are "new" or "inventive." A patent has several parts, but the crucial parts are the detailed discussion of the invention (sometimes informally called "the disclosure") and the claims.

  • The disclosure gives a description of the invention in sufficient detail that someone who is well versed in the field could build the invention based on the disclosure.
  • The claims are a section of the patent that, through specific, structured legal language and conventions, precisely indicates the aspects of the technology that the inventor asserts are original, and that should therefore be protected by law as a unique invention.

In the United States, inventors are legally permitted to draft patent applications for their own inventions. Most inventors, however, recognize that an effective patent requires specialized training. As such, they turn to patent attorneys or patent agents, who are licensed to draft, file, and prosecute patents on behalf of inventors.

Drafting a patent application entails gathering necessary information from the inventors and writing the patent application. Patent prosecution entails a legal dance between the patent applicant and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The USPTO typically initially rejects all or most of the claims in a patent application. The typical reason is a prior public disclosure, in the form of a prior patent or other publication that the patent examiner considers to anticipate the claimed invention. In other words, patent examiners argue that someone else got there first. The patent applicants-typically represented by their attorney or agent-may then either amend the patent claims or present factual arguments that the claims are not actually anticipated by prior inventions. Sometimes the attorney/agent does a combination of both, amending some claims while trying to argue around other rejections. This dance can go through one or more rounds, and sometimes goes through administrative appeals within the USPTO.

Both patent agents and patent attorneys are licensed to fully represent inventors in all respects before the USPTO. From the standpoint of patent prosecution, there is no practical difference between a patent agent and a patent attorney. However, a patent attorney can represent an inventor in legal proceedings, which may take place in courts beyond the jurisdiction of the USPTO. Attorneys can also advise inventors about contractual and licensing issues and other legal matters that are beyond the strict scope of patent filing and prosecution. Still, there is a lot of work to be done just in the realm of patent filing and prosecution- more than enough to keep a patent agent very busy.

A patent agent, under the supervision of a licensed patent attorney, may also engage in "opinion" work, giving legal advice to clients about whether their inventions violate a patent claim of another patent (usually from another company or inventor) or whether a competing product violates one of their patents.

How To Become a Patent Agent

Drafting and prosecuting patent applications is not exactly the same as technical writing, but there is significant overlap in the skills. Certainly, it is crucial to be able to work with subject-matter experts (such as engineers or biologists) to gather technical information and to document the information in clear language. Drafting the patent claims also involves legal skills that technical writers must learn.

The United States has strict qualifying limits for patent agents. Although a law degree is not required, you must take a licensing exam administered by the USPTO. To qualify for the exam, you must have significant technical training in a field such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, or medicine. Studies in mathematics are not acceptable, but computer science is. (A complete list of the allowed technical backgrounds is on the USPTO Web site.)

As such, the patent agent field is wide open to technical writers with the necessary academic training and to engineers, scientists, and medical professionals who want to make a switch and who enjoy working with the written word.

At a minimum, you must have an undergraduate degree or the equivalent in an appropriate field. My college degree was for a self-designed program of study; however, I provided the USPTO with documentation showing that I had essentially completed all coursework for a physics major. That was enough to qualify for the test. For all requirements for the test, go to https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/patent-and-trademark-practitioners/becoming-patent-practitioner and click the "General Requirements Bulletin" link.

The test consists of one hundred multiple choice questions. (Ninety questions are actually graded, and the other ten are "questions under development.") Studying for the test is an art form. In essence, the licensing test is not technical. If you qualified to take the test, it is assumed that you know something about technology or science. Instead, it is a test on law and administrative issues related to patents. It is very detailed, and the pass rate is not high. In other words, you really need to study for it.

Everything you need to know about patent law and regulations is in a book titled Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), which you can download from the USPTO Web site. Unfortunately, it is about 3,000 pages long (really), and it is hard to know exactly what to study. When I took the test, I was able to study old tests, which you can also download from the USPTO Web site at https://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/patent-and-trademark-practitioners/registration-exam-results-and-statistics  Updated

In 2005, the USPTO switched to an electronic testing system. It no longer publishes recent test questions, and the existing tests (2003 and earlier) become progressively more out of date as the patent law and regulations evolve over time. However, I would not completely ignore those old tests. Although the questions and answers may become dated over time, the types of questions still reflect, at least in a broad sense, the kinds of issues likely to be raised in the future.

You can enroll in patent prep courses or you can mail order them. They are not cheap (expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000), but the prep courses may help you pass the test if you are determined to make a career transition. For what it’s worth, I passed the test the first time by studying patent law books and old tests. Here is a link to a site for more advice about studying for the patent agent / attorney licensing exam: http://www.intelproplaw.com/ (Go to the "forums" and find the discussions on patent careers.) [Editors’ Note: in 2013, that site couldn’t be found.] You can also get advice about patent law from discussion groups on Usenet. (See the newsgroup misc.int-prop.) Here is one site for course materials for the patent bar: http://www.patentpublishing.com/index.html [Editors’ Note: in 2013, that site is also dead. Try searching for study material in Amazon.com or Google.]

Career Opportunities as a Patent Agent

I did not immediately land work with a law firm after obtaining my license from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). General-practice law firms and intellectual property boutiques seemed to be more interested in hiring recent law school graduates than experienced technical writers. I think the firms are simply not familiar with technical writers because few of us make the transition to patent work.

Patent Agents and Technical Specialists

That said, some patent law firms and general-practice law firms hire technical specialists (people with technical backgrounds) even if they are not licensed patent agents. Often, they are seeking people with advanced degrees , but some are open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree, especially if they also have technical writing experience. Some firms are also interested in people who have extensive experience as an engineer, scientist, or medical professional.

If you passed the patent bar before applying for work-that is, you are a patent agent instead of a technical specialist-you are likely to move ahead of other candidates who are seeking technical specialist jobs. On the other hand, even if you have not yet passed the patent bar, some firms may hire you as a technical specialist. The experience that you gain by working at a law firm can help you understand the legal and administrative issues that you will encounter on the USPTO test.

Experience is another issue. Many law firms want someone who is experienced in drafting claims and prosecuting the patent through the actual award. So, as with work in many fields, landing that first job may take persistence. (In my case, it took about six months from obtaining my license to receiving a job offer.) Once you have experience from that first job, more opportunities will open up.

So the bottom line is that some law firms (and some private corporations that draft their own patents in-house) are open to hiring patent agents or technical specialists. The income potential for licensed patent agents is very good. The salary for a starting position could be the same as that made by senior-level technical writers. A patent agent at two years can make as much as or more than a technical writer at 10 or 15 years. Because the position is licensed, it carries more cachet than nonlicensed technical writing positions.

From Patent Agent to Patent Attorney

If you do land a job with a law firm and decide to pursue a law degree, many firms will reduce your full-time work requirements while you attend law school. They may even help pay your tuition. So becoming a patent agent could allow you to transition from technical writer, scientist, engineer, or doctor to patent attorney. The transition would require a lot of work, but could lead to gratifying financial rewards.

The Washington, D.C. area is particularly fertile for patent work, because so much of patent work involves interaction with USPTO. (For example, it is convenient to be able to meet with patent examiners.) However, most large cities and major high-tech U.S. corridors have law firms that do patent work. Before deciding to pursue a career as a patent agent, you might want to investigate the career possibilities in your geographic area.

It is worth noting that you could become an independent patent agent. Companies typically require that you have experience before they send work your way. However, once you have the experience, you can probably set up shop as an independent consultant.

Working as a Patent Agent

I have been employed as a patent agent for close to two years [as of 2008]. In some respects, I am still learning the job. (There is a lot to learn!) Here are some things that I can share:

Breaks and Pauses

If you work at a law firm, expect to juggle many projects for many clients at the same time. You will not work on one patent; you will work on 6 or 8 or possibly 20. The work tends to be stop-and-go. As a beginner, you will do some work on a project and have it reviewed. A client may send you preliminary information about an invention, you can start researching and writing, and then put the project on hold until you can interview the inventor or another subject-matter expert. After you draft the patent, it will probably be reviewed by a more experienced legal professional and by the client before final changes are put in place. Therefore, you can see the need to have multiple projects in the pipeline.

Patent Prosecution

You can expect to be involved in patent prosecution; that is, you will reply to correspondence from the patent office. You determine whether rejections raised by the patent office are in fact valid. Based on your determination, you either revise the claims in your patent or argue the merits of the patent versus the prior references (prior inventions cited by the patent office).

Writing

Broadly speaking, the work calls upon the same kinds of writing skills, thinking skills, and people skills as technical writing. However, the writing itself is different. There are a host of legal requirements, both formal (things you must do in drafting a patent) and prudent (things that are not legally mandatory, but that make for a better, stronger patent application). You can expect to constantly encounter new technologies, and you will be called upon to grasp the essence of those technologies quickly.

Particularly challenging is the need to write more generally. As a technical writer, filling in the details was often crucial to clearly conveying an understanding of a technology. With patents, the goal is to define the invention clearly, but at the same time not to narrow the invention too much. The ideal patent "claims" the invention as broadly as possible. (The objective is to exclude competitors from gaining patents on inventions that are essentially or substantially the same, with only minor differences.)

Patent Examiner: A Related Path

The patent examiner’s job is to review patent applications and determine whether the applications meet the criteria for patentability (such as the invention being novel and not obvious). Patent examiners work for USPTO, which provides free training, so the job can provide the security typically associated with government employment. Moreover, by working at USPTO, you can automatically be licensed as a patent agent without taking the licensing exam. Some law firms may welcome your expertise, because you have worked "inside the system" and understand how USPTO operates.


Legal Notices

At the time of Internet publication of this article (January 13, 2008), Steven Oppenheimer was a patent agent at a boutique law firm specializing in intellectual property. Mr. Oppenheimer specializes in electronics, software, mechanical, and business method patents. He may be reached at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Notice is served that while Mr. Oppenheimer is employed as a patent agent at a law firm, and while he maintained a Web site for his (currently dormant) technical writing services, doing business as “Oppenheimer Communications” where this article was first published, there is no association between Oppenheimer Communications and the law firm. Nor is there any association between Oppenheimer Patents and the law firm. Further, the law firm is not responsible for the content of this article, and does not endorse any of the contents of this article.

This article is Copyright © 2008-2013 Steven C. Oppenheimer. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced or redistributed without the express written permission of the author.

U.S. Government Acknowledges Technical Writers As Distinct from All Other Writing Professions

The Occupational Outlook and Handbook (OOH), published by the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), will have an individual report on technical writers in the next edition.

The change acknowledges that the requirements of technical writing are sufficiently distinct from all other writing professions to warrant affording technical writers their own report in the 2010-2011 edition that will be available to the public on the BLS Web site in December 2009.

STC has been working with the BLS since 2007 to update its definition of the technical communication profession. That year, STC responded to a request from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to update the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), the classification system used by all U.S. and state government agencies when collecting and publishing information on employment, wages, and salaries. Although the Standard Occupational Classification Review Committee chose not to endorse STC's recommendation to replace the term and definition for "technical writer" with a new classification and definition for "technical communication specialist", the request did receive a sympathetic hearing at the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Division, which has maintained a dialog with STC ever since.

Why is this important?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is one of the federal government's best selling publications because it is the key reference tool for the human resources profession. The reference details the latest changes in nearly 300 different occupations tracked by the BLS every two years. The OOH is a corner-of-the-desk fixture in most HR departments, school guidance offices, career centers, and employment counselor offices nationwide. "Having the US Bureau of Labor Statistics recognize technical writers as a profession distinct from all other writing professions independently confirms STC's claim that not all writers can do technical writing," explained 2008-2009 STC President Mark Clifford. Clifford is an international talent recruiter and consultant for the technical communication field. "We're very pleased to have this distinction made in an important reference tool that is so well respected by the human resource community."