The Official Guide to Official Handbooks

Do you find yourself constantly confused about the different types of official handbooks and what they mean? Are you unsure about which one is the most important for your particular situation?

Official handbooks are an invaluable resource for navigating the complexities of government procedures, regulations, and policies.

Whether you are looking to create an official policy manual for your business, or you need to understand the laws and regulations governing a certain activity or industry, an official handbook can provide the information you need.

This guide is designed to help you through the process of selecting the right official handbook for your needs and understanding the contents of each.

With the right official handbook, you can easily understand the official rules and regulations that apply to your situation and make informed decisions to ensure compliance and success.

Types of Official Handbooks

There are a number of different types of official handbooks, each offering its own benefits and uses. The types of handbooks that exist include:

  • Administrative regulations – Administrative regulations are issued by executive branch agencies to implement and clarify federal laws. This type of handbook may also contain guidance on best practices or recommendations for agency personnel on how to implement the law.
  • Advisory opinions – Advisory opinions provide guidance on the application of laws and regulations in particular situations.
  • Best practices – Best practices are guidelines used by government agencies and employees to help ensure excellence and compliance with laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Code of federal regulations (CFR) – CFRs are an essential tool for understanding the laws and regulations that govern federal agencies, industries, and activities.
  • Congressional committee reports – Congressional committee reports are included in legislation to provide background information on the law, its intent, and any issues it addresses.
  •  Federal code of regulations (FCR) – The FCR contains the text of the laws enacted by the United States Congress and the rules and regulations issued by federal agencies to implement these laws.
  • Federal procurement regulation – The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contains the rules and regulations governing government procurement.
  • Federal regulations – Federal regulations are issued by federal agencies as the result of their authority to issue rules under specific federal laws.
  • Federal register – The Federal Register contains the rules and regulations issued by federal agencies as well as notices of federal government activities.
  • Federal statutes – Federal statutes are the laws enacted by the United States Congress.
  • Government procurement regulation – The Government Contracting Regulation is issued by the General Services Administration and contains the rules and regulations governing government procurement.
  • Government statutes – Government statutes are the laws enacted by the United States Congress. – Guidebooks – Guidebooks are books that provide information on a specific topic related to a government activity. They may be published by a government agency or contractor.
  •  Implementation manuals – Implementation manuals provide detailed instructions on how to carry out the laws and policies contained in legislation or executive orders.
  • Legal opinions – Legal opinions are issued by government lawyers to provide an interpretation of laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Manuals – Manuals are books that provide information on a specific subject related to a government activity.
  • Regulations – Regulations are rules issued by government agencies under the authority of a particular law.
  • Statutes – Statutes are laws enacted by the United States Congress.
  • Standards – Standards are documents published by government agencies that set forth the required quality or level of service of a product or service rendered.
  • Taste and flavor testing laboratory manual – Taste and flavor testing laboratory manuals are published by the Food and Drug Administration and contain the regulations and requirements for laboratories that test food flavors.

Benefits of Using Official Handbooks

There are many benefits to using official handbooks. Some of these include:

  • Allows for consistent implementation – An official handbook provides guidance and instructions on how to properly implement the rules and regulations it contains. This ensures consistent implementation of policies and procedures across the organization and can help identify areas of weakness or gaps in knowledge.
  • Helps ensure compliance – Following the rules and regulations outlined in an official handbook can help ensure compliance with government requirements and best practices.
  • Provides an easy-to-understand reference – Official handbooks are written in plain language to make them easier to understand than lengthy and technical government regulations. They provide a single resource that can be referred to by employees at any level of an organization.
  •  Contributes to organizational efficiency – An official handbook streamlines the process of determining how to comply with applicable laws and regulations by providing a single source for this information.

This can save time and help employees focus on their core responsibilities without having to spend time researching the applicable rules and regulations.

How to Select the Right Official Handbook

Using the chart below, you can narrow down the different types of handbooks to select the one that is most relevant to your situation. Once you have selected the appropriate handbook, you can use the following steps to select the best edition:


  • Determine the date – The date of the edition refers to when it was published and can help you identify when any laws and regulations it references were enacted. For example, if the legislation or regulations cited in the handbook were enacted in 2020, the edition should be 2020 or later.
  • Determine the audience – The audience of the handbook refers to the people who will be using it. This includes the agency and industry it pertains to as well as the level of expertise of the people using it. For example, a handbook intended for government scientists will have different information and language than one intended for industry stakeholders.
  • Identify the level of formality – The level of formality refers to the style of language and presentation of the handbook. This includes things like the use of acronyms and bolded terms. More formal handbooks are often used to communicate complex topics that are essential to an organization’s mission.

Understanding the Contents of an Official Handbook

Every official handbook is different, but they all contain the same basic information. The type of information you can expect in an official handbook will vary depending on the content of the handbook.

For example, a legal handbook will include information on how to interpret laws and regulations while a financial handbook may contain information on budgeting and spending. The following is a list of key sections you should expect to find in any official handbook.

  • Foreword – The foreword is an introductory section that includes information about the author and editor of the handbook, the intended audience, and the current version of the handbook.
  • Table of contents – The table of contents is a list of all the topics in the handbook, along with their page numbers. This can help you easily navigate the handbook and find the information you need.
  • Background – The background section is an overview of the topic covered in the handbook, including the purpose of the law or regulation it pertains to and any issues it addresses.

The background section also includes information on where the data in the handbook comes from, such as other government publications.

  • Definitions – The definitions section provides definitions of any acronyms or terms used in the handbook. This can help ensure that everyone can understand the information in the handbook and be on the same page when discussing it.

How to Use an Official Handbook

Using an official handbook is as simple as identifying the type of handbook you are using and then searching for the information you need. For example, if you are looking for information on regulations relating to food contamination, you would use a food safety handbook.

You can then scan the table of contents for the appropriate section, or you can use the search function to find information more quickly. Once you’ve found the information you are looking for, there are a few ways to use it:

  • Read through the information in the handbook and highlight key points. When you have time, go back through the highlighted sections to read the information in full. This will help you retain the most important information and concepts.
  • Highlight only the information you need. This may be particularly helpful for complex topics or regulations with many sub-topics or regulations that are closely related. This will allow you to quickly find the information you need without getting overwhelmed by the amount of information in the handbook.
  • Create a table of contents for the handbook. While all official handbooks include a table of contents, you may find that you prefer to create your own tabbed table of contents so that you can organize the information in the handbook as you see fit.

Best Practices for Using Official Handbooks

When using official handbooks, there are a few best practices you should keep in mind. These include: Most importantly, keep in mind that while official handbooks are an invaluable resource, they are not the law itself.

They are written by government employees and scientists who are fallible and can make mistakes

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