This review of Microsoft Word for Medical and Technical Writers was written by Ginny Hudak-David and was published in the May 2008 issue of Technical Communication, the journal of the Society for Technical Communication
Reproduced by permission of the author
|Authors Peter Aitken and Maxine Okazaki have, through the
selection of their title, likely limited the audience for their gem of a
reference book. In easy-to-understand language, they expose the many
quirks and inconsistencies of Microsoft Word that you need to know and
understand, whether or not you work with long documents or with medical
The books deals specifically with the popular Microsoft Word 2003, which is far more widely used than Word 2007. The authors are generous when they say that "the problems we speak of are not for the most part flaws of bugs in Word. Rather they are features of Word that have unintended or undesired consequences." The bug-versus-feature argument will likely never be resolved.
From templates and tables to styles, fields, and document sections, Aitken and Okazaki cover it all. If you have ever wondered about the impact of some of the settings in word or the interrelationships between and among the myriad options in this popular software program, this is the book for you. Not only do the authors explain the settings, they offer recommendations about what you ought to do (or not do) to minimize problems. Take, for example, this text on linking to data being maintained in an external data source (such as Excel), which is supposed to update automatically in your Word document: "Yes, it works sometimes, but we do not believe that the risk is worth it."
Recommendations, sprinkled throughout the nine chapters, are set off in boxes, easily distinguished from the tips that are also included in shaded paragraphs. A light touch makes the text easy to read and memorable. Take this sentence on working with fields and tables of contents:
Repeat after us: fields do not update
automatically, fields do not
They go on to tell you how to update fields, and the repeat an admonition from an earlier chapter reminding you of what does not work.
The text is straightforward and clear, matched by the functional presentation of the information in the spiral binding, which makes the book easy to handle and convenient on your desk. The contents and index are both well done and will quickly get you to the information you need.
If you go beyond the most basic features of Word, this reference volume is a must-have.