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Two indispensable editing features include the Track Changes and Comments in Word. While undeniably powerful software tools, it can be overwhelming to learn how to best work within such files. This post will familiarize beginners with essential pointers for effective document navigation while also offering more experienced users a few useful tips.


Each copy edited or proofread manuscript I return to clients includes two file versions: one where all changes and comments are still visible and another clean copy where all Track Changes and Comments have been accepted and deleted from the document.


The Track Changes and Comments example images in this post are from my client Gerald Freeman’s memoir I Don’t Believe God Wrote the Bible. Gerry and I worked together through a manuscript critique and copy edit, which was then followed by me writing the book blurb as well as a press release. 


Cover image of I Don't Believe God Wrote the Bible


The images below were made using Word 2013. While other versions of Word may look a bit different, the general concepts remain largely the same. Opening a document in All Markup mode will likely strike terror into most author’s hearts. All that red! Never fear. Let’s acquaint ourselves with the Review tab on the file menu.


Image of Track Changes and Comments


PC users can zoom in on the images here by hitting ctrl + multiple times (follow this link for mac instructions.) Clicking on each image will also open it in a new window where it will then be displayed in a larger size.


The drop-down menu offers four options for the mode Track Changes can be viewed in: Simple Markup, All Markup, No Markup, and Original. Note that Track Changes is highlighted in blue on the file menu to indicate the feature is currently active. When on, a strikethrough line appears in the left margin to indicate a change has been made and will appear in all markup modes.


Beneath the Track Changes drop-down menu, the Show Markup menu allows the user to further customize the way corrections and comments appear on the screen. The menu is the Reviewing Pane, which allows the user to display the changes and comments within the document in a horizontal or vertical list. I generally prefer to make my screen text as large as possible by using the zoom bar in the lower right corner.


Image of Track Changes and Comments


Deletions appear with a line struck through them, and insertions are underlined. Some writers prefer to comb through the Tracked Changes and Comments one by one, accepting and rejecting each as they go. Others will flip back and forth between the four markup modes to gauge changes. Another option is to work entirely within the No Markup mode to experience the text as the editor did in the final version.


Chances are, a greater majority of the edits made will be acceptable rather than unacceptable. Though wading through all of the available Track Changes and Comments options may feel a bit daunting, repeated attempts at document navigation will help  develop an approach you feel comfortable with.


As a writer, I personally prefer to work with the clean and marked up versions of the copy edited documents side by side. In order to make an opened file cover half of the screen, place the cursor at the top of the file in the area above the menu titles. Left click and hold down in order to drag the window to the corner of the screen until it snaps into place.


Image of Track Changes and Comments


Comments can be combed through on an individual basis and deleted once attended to as well. This can come in especially handy when I work with with a client on a manuscript critique and then a follow-up copy edit. Or in the case of multiple rough drafts or multiple authors,  the comments feature is a great way to identify the author of each addition.


In order to change how the author name appears within the comment bubbles or to tweak the color of the comment highlights and corrections, click on the arrow that is off to the side of Tracking on the menu bar. This will reveal a pop-up menu. From there navigate to Advanced Options to access the menu shown above.



What additional pointers would you add for new users? What is your preferred method for working with Track Changes and Comments in Word?



Permission must be granted by Jeri Walker to use the sample images in this post. Use of the book cover falls under fair use guidelines.

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