Tag Archives: using the track changes function in ms word

How to use the Track Changes Function #amwriting

Part of being a writer is going through the experience of having your work edited by a professional editor. Submissions that have been accepted by anthologies and publications may require a little editing prior to publication. We do our best to submit a clean manuscript, but none of us are perfect.

Editors often use a function of Word that is called “Track Changes” along with inserting comments in the right-hand column. When you are new to this process, it can be confusing. It may make you think he has “mucked up your manuscript” because he may have made changes that are marked in red and which surprised you.

Trust me, you have the final say on all changes that have been made, and you can “accept” or “reject” each suggested change. If you reject a suggestion, the text reverts back to your original prose.

Just a note: before you submit your work to an editor, you must do what I think of as “Due Diligence.” If you have hired an editor for a novel-length manuscript that was poorly proofed, tracked changes can be distracting, looking like a wall of red. If that is the case, the manuscript probably wasn’t ready for editing. Editors can only do so much – you must submit work that is as clean as you can make it, and they will help you clean up the rest.

A good way to catch the majority of typos and dropped or missing words is to use the “Read Aloud” function (on the review tab) or read it aloud yourself.

When a manuscript is too rough, some editors will choose to edit only the first few chapters and put most of their suggestions into the comment column rather than using tracking. Editing via keying suggestions in the comment column can be quite time-consuming. They will ask you to consider the suggestions they have made and make revisions in the whole manuscript accordingly, and then resend the ms once those changes have been made.

MS Word has four ways to show tracked changes:

  • Simple Markup: This shows the final version without inline markups. Red or black markers will appear in the left margin to indicate where a change has been made.
  • All Markup: This shows the final version with inline markups.
  • No Markup: This shows the final version and hides all markups.
  • Original: This shows the original version and hides all markups.

When I am editing for a client, I use “All Markup” and add comments as needed.

Places where I insert a suggested change will be in red and have a line beneath them. Deleted items will be in red and have a line through them, or in the case of commas, above them.

To accept or reject changes:

  1. Select the change you want to accept or reject.
  2. From the Review tab, click the Accept or Reject
  3. The markup will disappear, and Word will automatically jump to the next change. You can continue accepting or rejecting each change until you have reviewed all of them.
  4. When you’re finished, click the Track Changes command to turn off Track Changes. Just click on it, and the dark gray will return to the same shade of gray as the rest of the ribbon.

The automatic comments generated by “track changes” will disappear when you resolve the suggested changes. Those will say “Inserted” or “Deleted” followed by the word or punctuation that was changed.

If your editor has made separate comments regarding larger issues, such as suggestions to move a section to a different place for continuity, they won’t disappear from the comment column when you accept or reject tracked changes. You’ll have to delete them separately.

  1. On the Review tab, in the Comments section, click Next to select a comment.
  2. On the Review tab, click Delete.

To delete all comments at once, click the arrow next to Delete, and then click Delete All Comments in Document.

This is how a document might look when it comes back from the editor. The left column shows a line indicating a change was made, the change itself is in red, and a comment was automatically generated explaining what that change was.
Some authors get exceedingly angry when the editor of an anthology requests some changes in the story they have submitted. Editors have a vision of how the whole book will flow when it is complete, and they may ask for some small changes so that the stories transition well.

If the changes are reasonable (and most are), do make them. If you strongly disagree, wait until you cool down before responding.

Once you have a handle on your irritation, write a note explaining why you don’t feel those changes are right for that piece. It could be that the editor just didn’t understand where you were going with it, and a few minor tweaks along with a calm discussion will resolve the problem.

Google Docs has a track changes function, and I am sure all other word processing programs do too. Their processes will likely be similar to what I have described, and you can go online to find out what the differences are. But Word is the program I use, so I am most familiar with that.

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