How to use MS Word Track Changes with your edited manuscript

Working your way through revisions? Please see my updated Track Changes Guide.

Your edited manuscript is back! It’s time to incorporate the edits. Track Changes can seem intimidating to work with the first time, but once you get comfortable with it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed notes, edits, and revisions without it.

Here are some tips for getting started processing your editing manuscript—but before you begin, remember that you really can’t go wrong if you save early and often. Save the document with a new working name right away so that you’ll always have the document in the form it was returned in from your editor. Keep saving regularly as you go so that if you make a big mistake (easy to do in the era of global search and replace), you can step back to a recent version.

After you receive your edited manuscript

Mouse finger_320The first thing you should do with a newly edited manuscript is read it with the markup turned off so you can clearly see how the editing text reads. You’ll probably find it more convenient to jot notes by hand about things you want to address later rather than distracting yourself by fixing things here and there at this stage. (Jot down a unique snippet of identifying text so you can easily find the right place in the manuscript later.)

To turn off the Track Changes markup, on the Review tab in Microsoft Word, find the drop-down box just to the right of the Track Changes box. Set that box to Final (in Word 2013, choose No Markup or Simple Markup). I recommend that you keep comments showing; if you’ve turned on the tracked changes in the text but you’re not seeing comment balloons in the margins, click the Show Markup dropdown next to the big Tracking button and check Comments to enable them.

When you’re ready to process the edits

Once you’ve read through the manuscript with the markup turned off and made notes of anything that needs more attention after your first read-through, you’re ready to peek behind the curtain and start accepting, rejecting, and revising the edits. Accepting an edit makes it part of your manuscript, while rejecting one deletes it.

To make the edits show up on your screen, set the drop-down box at the top of the Track Changes area on the Review tab to Final: Show Markup (or, in Word 2013, All Markup).

Does it seem like you see more comments this time around? You’re not crazy. Comments linked to material that was deleted only show when the deleted material is displayed, which only happens when the markup is on. Now that the markup is on, you’ll see every last explanation and comment that exists.

If any of this still seems confusing, visit this brief Track Changes video tutorial from my colleague and friend Katherine Trail. You’ll be moving through your edits with more confidence in no time.

Don’t miss the Reject and Move to Next command.

To keep Word moving forward edit by edit, click the arrow at the bottom of the big Reject button on the Review tab and choose Reject and Move to Next for each edit you want to reject. Use the Accept and Move to Next for the edits you want to use.

I suggest that you create a keyboard keystroke combination that lets you do this easily. Here’s how to create a customized keyboard shortcut.

Speed up accepting and rejecting edits.

You don’t have to slog through hundreds of edits by pressing Accept or Reject one edit at a time. It’s often easier to make a pass through the manuscript first to reject only the edits that you do not want to keep (things you want left as you originally wrote them). Your first pass through the document will be strictly to reject those. Skip over the corrections and edits you do like and want to keep—simply pass them by with no action.

Once you’ve rejected or revised any edits you don’t want to keep, accept all the rest of the edits at once using the Accept All Changes command. Click the arrow at the bottom of the Accept button and choose Accept All Changes. Since you’ll probably be accepting many more edits than you’ll reject, you’ve just processed your edit in a fraction of the time and clicks!

Still a little boggled by Track Changes?

Here’s a good explanation of how to use Track Changes. If those instructions don’t cover your particular version of Word, run a Google search for: track changes Word [date of your Word version].

Change the color of your edits.

Pro Tip: Yes, this is going to sound like a BuzzFeed headline, but you won’t believe how much easier your edits will be to read if you change the colors of the additions and deletions. On the Review tab, click the little pull-out arrow at the bottom right of the Track Changes area. Then Click Advanced Options.

You may be tempted to go crazy choosing a personalized color palette, but the color scheme I’m about to recommend will make reading the markup much more intuitive. Set Insertions to Teal and Deletions to Gray – 25%. Then set Moved From to Gray – 25% and Moved To to Teal. Don’t change anything else. You’ll find the gray deletions fade away and the teal additions pop out (and—bonus!—without the angst so often associated with red ink).

Unfortunately, Track Changes colors are saved locally on each computer, so the settings I use won’t “stick” to the manuscript when I send it back to you. Your changes are good on your own computer. Give them a try—your brain will thank you for helping it make sense of the markup.

Gotta catch ’em all!

In order to prepare your manuscript for the next round of editing or for publication, you must accept or reject all the changes and address and remove all the comments and queries. You can’t simply set the document to not show the changes; that won’t make your file ready for publication.

To check for any last comments and revisions you might have missed, click File > Inspect Document and check the box for Comments, Revisions, Versions and Annotations.

Word will tell you if it finds any more comments or edits, but I don’t recommend that you let it remove them automatically. You’ll want to track those down and accept or reject them yourself. An easy way to find them is clicking the Next button that’s just to the left of the Accept and Reject buttons on the Review tab.

Working your way through revisions? Please see my updated Track Changes Guide.

Nib_100Uncertain your manuscript is ready for editing? Test your writing with a new author evaluation or a plot checkup.


Image: SamahR