Home > Editor's Corner Podcast > Editor’s Corner Podcast: How to Use Track Changes in Microsoft Word

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The Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word helps the editors at Dog Ear work together with our amazing authors. Whether you’re a Mac enthusiast or a die-hard PC fan, learn some of our favorite features—and how to use them!

Transcript:

Stephanie: Welcome to Dog Ear Publishing’s Editor’s Corner in which we explore all things editorial. I’m Stephanie, the managing editor at Dog Ear Publishing. Here with me is my colleague, Angela.

Angela: Good morning.

Stephanie: Angela and I have been editing collectively for 31 years. In this podcast, we try to take some of the confusion out of writing a book. In today’s podcast, we’re going to cover something that we know quite a few authors have problems with, especially first time authors, which is using track changes in Microsoft Word.

Angela: That’s right. Every publishing house that I’ve ever talked to uses this feature, so it’s probably pretty important to know how to work with it.

Stephanie: Absolutely, and even if you use … There’s something important here to note that even if you use something like Open Doc, or Word Perfect.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Probably your files are going to be converted to Microsoft Word.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Because it uses track changes so much better. It’s really the standard because sometimes, love it or hate it, it is the best at what it does.

Angela: Exactly, and once we talk about all the different features, you will totally understand why we use it. I think if others can get around the kind of feature of messing things up with it.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Angela: It makes a big difference. It will help you out, I promise.

Stephanie: It really, really will. It can be challenging, but we always have author services people at Dog Ear who can help walk you through if you really don’t understand things. That’s kind of the point of the article that we wrote for the Editor’s Corner and this podcast to help that be a little less confusing for you.

Angela: Exactly. There is an article, like she said. It’s just called simply ‘How to Use Track Changes,’ and it’s accessible through the Dog Ear blog. Once we get through here, if you want to go and check that out, there’s much more information over there that will help.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), and plus you can read it while you’re following along on your computer.

Angela: That’s true.

Stephanie: Maybe you’re listening and you can follow along on your computer now, too.

Angela: That’s true. Stephanie is on a regular PC. I’m on an Apple. Between the two of us, we should be able to cover both. What should we start with is the question?

Stephanie: Well, I would like to point out something that probably not even a lot of editors at over at Dog Ear know is that when all of your files come in, whether they’re saved as dot ‘x’ or some other format, they do get converted to dot doc, which is Microsoft Word, … I think it’s like 1995 to … Let me see here. ’97 to 2003 now.

Angela: Right, right.

Stephanie: That is because the dot doc, d-o-c, is actually usable across platforms. There for a lot time, dot ‘x’ was not. I’m not certain if it is anymore, but dot doc is usable across all platforms. You can still submit it in a doc ‘x’ format, but it’s always going to come back to you in a dot doc format.

Angela: Right, and that’s just because some of the editors use Macs, and some of them use PCs. No matter what we use, if we have it dot doc, all of us can use it. We can send it to each other and we don’t have any problems with being able to read it.

Stephanie: Absolutely. Sometimes, you will see, if you move … if you happen to be one of those authors who works with track changes on so that you can see your own changes, and you say ‘make a change within’ … say you move text that you’ve already made a change in, then those will actually show as moved text and then changes within the moved text. If you get a document from us because of the dot doc format, that’s not going to be the case. It’s all just going to show up as one giant change. Something to be aware of, you always want to read changed text carefully; especially if it’s a whole paragraph. There may be changes within that, that’s not just a move of your paragraph.

Angela: Exactly. One of the great things, obviously if others have used track changes in any way that they know, … and if you haven’t, we’re about to tell you … that it changes the color of the text.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: That’s one of the best things about it I think, that no matter who makes changes to your documents, if they have the track changes feature turned on, you will see every single change.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: That gives you power, which all of us love.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: The power to go through and either say, “Yes, I want to keep this,” or “No, I don’t think this is working,” and remove it to put the text back the way it started.

Stephanie: Yes, absolutely. I’ve had authors in the past who really don’t like that. They just want me to make changes without tracking things. That makes me very nervous.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: I want to make sure that authors can see what they want. If you are actually one of those people who just wants to see the final changes, you can make sure that track changes is turned off.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: So that if you go to your screen and go to the review tab, if you have a review, … you should have a review tab at this point.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Unless you’re running a really old version, which is possible. In the section for tracking, there’s going to be a pull down arrow that says ‘final showing markup,’ that’s usually the default. You can change that to ‘final.’ Even if it has changes in it and you don’t want to see those changes, you can just … You want to see those changes but without the markings, that’s where you can go.

Angela: Well, I was going to say, I’ve had authors who also want no track changes on whatsoever. I understand that. I always thought maybe that way was just intimidating to go back through and see all of them, or it made them feel embarrassed because there were all of these changes and everything. We always try to make the point that these are, for the most part, not every single thing like where commas and periods are, but for the most part, these are suggestions we have that we’re making throughout this document. The way that a sentence is worded maybe a little bit confusing, so we may move a word around. I would rather an author be able to see what I’ve done, because I want the author’s work to be theirs.

Stephanie: Exactly.

Angela: It’s not my book. I didn’t write it. I’m hoping to help to make it better and make the readers understand it better, but it’s the author’s book. I think track changes is probably the way to go. I don’t think I would ever recommend having an editor just make the changes and be done with it.

Stephanie: Right, and part of that, too, is because if you just see it without the changes, this is one reason editors exist.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: Because after you’ve seen text often enough, you know what it’s supposed to say.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: Not what it does say. We’re guilty of this all the time.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: We can make a change and just assume that it’s right. That’s another thing. We can introduce errors during the editing process.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: That’s not something we’re proud of, but it happens.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: We are human.

Angela: Yeah, we’re human.

Stephanie: Yeah. You have to be able to see those and reject them. Again, if you have read your text over, and over, and over again.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: Which likely you have, if you don’t have track changes on, you’re probably going to assume it reads a certain way; instead of knowing it reads a certain way.

Angela: Exactly. Your eyes will glaze over and I am telling you, you can take vowels out of words and your brain will put them in.

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Angela: A word can be missing. It can be misspelled. Your brain will fill in the information it thinks it’s supposed to see. But, if you have track changes turned on, you know what was there, what is there now. Just trust us, you want to use this feature.

Stephanie: Absolutely. Even for your eyes to glaze over as you’re reviewing changes.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: But it’s a lot harder to just skip over things, to skip over those mistakes. It really, really is.

Angela: It’s one by one, and that’s the cool thing that you have the ‘accept all changes’ option in a document. I personally wouldn’t recommend that.

I like to go, “Okay, let’s take it step by step.” Yes, if you’re an author that has written a 500 page book, I know. I know it’s tedious. I know it’s scary, but think about all of the time that you have put into writing the book, accepting those changes, and looking over for this final thing. It is not the time to skimp. It’s not the time to rush through.

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Angela: This is it. This is your kind of like, “Okay, we’re getting ready to submit it. We have to make sure that it says what we want to say,” because changing it after it’s published, it’s do-able but it’s not easy.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: Take your time. Mark out days or weeks to do a little bit every day. Don’t get overwhelmed by it. You will get there.

Stephanie: That is a wonderful suggestion.

Angela: Yeah. Yeah, one at a time; because it’s overwhelming. I can’t imagine being an author with, like I said, even a two to 500 page book. You and I have had edited bigger projects than that.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: Getting the project back and seeing all these errors or changes, it’s a lot.

Stephanie: A thing to remember, too, is that a lot of times, they’re not always errors.

Angela: That’s right.

Stephanie: A lot of times, we’re massaging the style. We want your voice to shine through.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: Sometimes we simply suggest rearranging a word for better flow of the sentence so it reads a little more smoothly. Not every change in there is going to be … is a mistake.

Angela: Exactly, exactly.

Stephanie: Quite often, they’re not. Don’t let that discourage you at seeing everything.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: But it does get overwhelming. One thing you can do, if there’s a lot of change in one particular sentence, what you can do, if it’s hard to … because it does take a lot of getting used to, reading those, the changes, knowing what’s an insertion and what’s a deletion.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Is that you can highlight all of the text.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: And hit ‘accept.’

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: Highlight one sentence and accept it.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: If there’s something there you don’t agree with, you can always undo.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: Either use your ‘undo’ button on the screen, or hit ‘control-z,’ and it will undo that accepting of all those changes in that sentence.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: Then, if you go item by item … I’ve had to do that before. Again, I track changes on my own work so that I can see when I’m done so that I don’t screw anything up.

Angela: Nobody is going to be surprised about that. You and I use track changes even if we are working on each other’s articles.

Stephanie: Yes, absolutely.

Angela: Yeah. That’s another a good point when you’re talking about not everything is an error. That’s absolutely true. We’ll track even things like verb tense issues and things like that. One thing you’re going to see when you open up a document from us is along the … Well, I guess the left-hand side of the screen if you’re not in a mirror. It’s comments and queries. If we are confused by anything, we are going to leave a question for you. If there’s something missing and we can’t figure out what it is, we’re going to leave a question for you. I also will tell you if there’s a sentence in there I think is amazing, or if there’s a part that really got me, and it made me teary eyed, I leave comments like that, too.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: I think most editors do.

Stephanie: Yeah, because we don’t want you to lose hope.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: There are excellent … We definitely want to show you what you’re doing well, as well what can use improvement. That is definitely part of a good editor. On my screen, by the way, that does show up on the right side, not on the left side.

Angela: I’m going to tell you, and this will be my vulnerability admittance for the day, I am looking at my screen and I know what side it’s on, on my screen, it’s on the right; but I always get confused because I think of their left? My left? I don’t know.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: Put a comment in, you’ll see what side it’s on, and don’t send me mail because I’m never going to learn the difference anyway.

Stephanie: That reminds me, too. A lot of people … I don’t even know if it’s the default in word because I’ve been working this way for so long.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: If you look at your screen down on the bottom right-hand corner, you’re going to see the zoom bar where you can make the text larger.

Angela: Yes, yup.

Stephanie: There are numerous buttons there that, if you hover over them, they’ll highlight. There’s print layout, full screen reading, web layout, outline, and draft.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: A lot of people default to ‘draft.’

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: The thing is, you’re going to be able to see changes that way, but you’re not going to be able to see comments very well that way.

Angela: That’s right.

Stephanie: We do suggest when you are reviewing changes that you make sure to click on ‘print layout.’

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Then that way, those comments will show up in that right margin for you. Otherwise, it can get very confusing, and you might not see the comments that your editor has left in there. I assure you, there are going to be comments.

Angela: Always, always.

Stephanie: We have had numerous authors who don’t realize that there are comments there, and so they make changes, or they accept our changes, but then they don’t make changes based on our suggestions because they had no idea that we had comments there.

Angela: That’s right.

Stephanie: That is definitely something to keep in mind.

Angela: When I’m looking at the draft, … I don’t know if it’s the same for the PC, but if I’m on a draft view and I’m looking at a comment, all it does is highlight the words that are commented on and puts a little number one in brackets.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: You cannot see the actual comment.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: That’s definitely something to keep in mind.

Stephanie: Okay. Now, maybe now that we’ve told you all of the wonderful things about track changes and why we use it, we should get into the basics of how to use it.

Angela: That sounds great, yeah.

Stephanie: All right. When you first open your word document, what you want to do is go, again, go to your review tab and probably in about the middle of the screen, you’re going to see a section of that box that has tracking at the bottom. You’re going to see buttons for track changes. On my screen, on the PC, you’re also going to see one for balloons. That’s the comments that you’ll see, and then a few formatting things will show up in balloons as well. You can change how you see those. I recommend just leaving those as they are.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: Slightly to the right of that, again, you’re going to have the arrow, the pull-down menu that will have you see final showing markup, final original showing markup, or original. Again, we recommend ‘final showing markup.’ There are some other things down there, the show markup and reviewing pane. I recommend that you don’t mess with those, that kind of gets into the slightly advanced thing when you have multiple people looking at the same document, that’s helpful. For the most part, the default is the way to go.

Angela: Right. It looks, actually what you’re describing sounds almost identical to the Apple. It’s got the track changes on/off, final showing markup, accept and reject change, and then a great little feature called ‘review pane’ that you can click on … and what I’m assuming now is the left side of your screen. It pops up the list of every single comment and change in the document.

Stephanie: I always avoid that one because it gets me confused, but if it works for some people.

Angela: It depends on how many … Yeah, it depends upon how many changes that you actually have. The article that I’m looking at now is a final document, so there’s nothing to look at except for comments.

Stephanie: Exactly.

Angela: Which is nice.

Stephanie: I do want to comment. I did not point out that on the PC version, at least of mine, I think it’s Windows 2007 I’m running, the track changes, if you hover over it with your mouse, it will highlight. You want to make sure that you click that. Make sure that it is highlighted. It will turn orange if it’s clicked. Otherwise, just seeing track changes there won’t do any good. You need to make sure it’s orange, and that’s how you know that you will be able to actually see track changes; and any changes that you make, because you may want to revise based on our comments, and track that to make sure you don’t introduce an error, or to have it reviewed again because some authors do choose to have it edited again. That’s the way to go.

Angela: Right. Exactly.

Stephanie: Make sure that button is highlighted, or on.

Angela: On the Apple, it is a green button. It’s just a little slide bar that turns from on to off. There’s actually another feature. Stephanie, I don’t know if you have this on yours, but it’s under the final showing markup, you have an option to show markup. It actually lets you choose feature-by-feature, so you can look at comments, or you can turn them off.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: You can look at the insertions and deletions, or you can turn them off. If you’re just getting started with it, don’t worry about any of that. Click ‘track changes on,’ that’s all you need to be doing.

Stephanie: Absolutely; but if you do find that your document has a lot of different changes and you’re just overwhelmed at everything, and you are a little more experienced at using Word, you can go and choose to review each one of those things at a time.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: But then, do make sure you go through all of them or else you might miss some things.

Angela: That’s right. One other really, really cool thing that you can do, especially if you’re sending a document back and forth, either between you and your editor or whoever you’re working with. You can actually respond to comments and queries. If I’ve got a comment, you can go up to, on an Apple, ‘insert’ and then ‘new comment.’ It will allow you to send a message back within the document. You can actually respond, issue-by-issue, instead of actually having to write them in just a giant email.

Stephanie: Yes. If you are replying to a comment, say that Angela edited your document and you want to reply to that. If you actually have your mouse, have your cursor in that comment and you hit ‘new comment,’ it will actually create one that is directly tied to that comment balloon.

Angela: That’s right, exactly.

Stephanie: It will show up as R1 or R2.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: So that the person will know that that is a direct response to that comment.

Angela: Exactly, exactly.

Stephanie: I find that very handy when I’m working on a development edit with authors, when we have several rounds back and forth.

Angela: Yes. I would think even like with beta readers, they can send you comments about specific … and then if you have a question back, you can send it back; because trying to answer all those questions in email gets very, very tedious.

Stephanie: Yeah. Trying to explain what page it’s on.

Angela: Yes, what line.  

Stephanie: Because of course, depending on people’s fonts on their computers.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: Something that appears on page two of your document [crosstalk 00:19:05] can appear on page three or four on somebody else’s screen. It’s really bizarre.

Angela: Exactly, exactly. Let me think. I think that’s the main features. Do you feel like we’ve missed anything?

Stephanie: Other than going through, you’ve already said how to go through and accept and reject changes.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: That changes box is right next to the tracking box on my screen, at the top.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: This is one thing we do cover in the article that we haven’t talked about yet is that if you do see a word deleted, it can change if you’ve had multiple people working in the same document; but typically, a deletion is going to show up as red text with a strike-through.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Sometimes that gets kind of confusing when you’re just looking at a space or punctuation. It can get a little confusing; or depending on the font you use, but you can always hover over colored text with your mouse and it will pop up, … Well, it does on my screen.

Angela: Mine, too.

Stephanie: It will pop up and say who changed it, what date it was changed, what time it was changed. It will say if it was deleted or added, and it will show you what was deleted or added.

Angela: Yup, it does the same thing on the Apple.

Stephanie: Okay. It’s been so long since I’ve used an Apple.

Angela: I know, and I keep saying ‘Apple.’ It’s not … Okay, it’s Apple, but MacBook. We’ll say ‘Macs,’ because I completely dated myself when I said ‘Apple.’ I think that’s from junior high school. Yes, it’s a ‘Mac,’ yes.

Stephanie: If you do insert, again, it mostly, on my computer, it still shows up because of my settings. I’ve been working on this computer for so long, it shows up as red text on mine as well, instead of blue.

Angela: Yup.

Stephanie: On most people’s, it will show up as blue; but it will have the text underlined instead of a cross-through.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Instead of a strike-through, I’m sorry. Sometimes, you will … there will be changes left that you can’t see, for whatever reason. It’s a space got deleted or added or something.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: If you are in print layout view, if you look over to the left side, you will see a line that shows up.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: It’s just a thin little line, a vertical line, that shows up next to the line of text that has a change remaining in it.

Angela: That’s right, that’s right. The only thing that I turn off track changes for when I’m editing is if I am doing a document wide change of the author’s put in two spaces after a sentence.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: I need to change every single one to just one space. I’ll turn off track changes, change just that, and then turn track changes back on.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: Your editor should be using track changes for just about everything else.

Stephanie: Right, and that one is really because every track change makes the file a little larger.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: That can really add a whole lot of memory.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: You do not want your file crashing just because your author has changed your standard … the quote, ‘old school’ two spaces after a period to the publishing standard of one space.

Angela: Right, and you don’t want to have to accept every single one of those. That’s an excellent point on size. When you start, if you have a lot of changes in your document, and you’re going through and working on them, save it often because a lot of changes like that, like she said, it eats up memory.

We’ve all had it where the document just goes, “Welp, I’m done,” and it crashes.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: You’re forced to start over. Save it as often as you feel like you need to. Yes, that is a big pro tip.

Stephanie: One thing that a lot of people won’t know about, and it won’t affect most people, but if your document is over about 400 pages.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: It’s also more likely to crash and/or go corrupt.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: That is something that I encountered at a former job where we had very, very large files with a lot of tables and such. You never want to do that. If you do have a large file, be sure to have multiple backups of it.

Angela: Yes. Well, from the original … Yeah, from the original, any time somebody new works on it, you save it to a new file. That’s another thing with … We could go on for this forever, but the file corruption.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: The more people that work on it, the more chances you have of that happening.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: Stephanie, bless her, actually helped me through a huge file corruption last year. It is not fun. The document will insert little characters. It will start deleting words. It is a total mess, so save your documents and save them often.

Stephanie: Yes, absolutely. With that, is there anything else that you can think of that we have not yet covered, Angela?

Angela: No, that actually marks everything off of my checklist.

Stephanie: Yay.

Angela: Yay.

Stephanie: Then I think we will call that good.

Angela: Okay.

Stephanie: If you do have questions after reading our Editor’s Corner article, or after listening to this podcast, please do email me and let me know. It is StephanieS@DogEarPublishing.net. That’s S-T-E-P-H-A-N-I-E-S at DogEarPublishing.net. As always, if you have any other things that you want to know about publishing, especially editing and writing, please do let us know. Email me at the same address. Otherwise, we are done at this point. We will talk to you next time. We will be talking about the importance of book reviews in marketing your book. Until then, keep writing.

Stephanie Stringham
Stephanie Stringham

As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I dreamed of getting paid to read books and of helping people. With this dream, I propelled myself through college to earn bachelor’s degrees in English (minor in Writing and Publishing) and Business Administration while working as a peer tutor in the university writing lab and interning with a publishing company in college. After graduation, I stayed on with the publishing company, where I fell in love with book publishing. Editing is my avocation. I began freelancing right after college, while earning a master’s degree in Health Communication and then working as an editor for Eli Lilly and Company and for the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. I have edited everything from class materials and newsletters to master’s theses, scholastic imprints, professional journals, and books in all genres. I feel my calling as an editor is not only to improve text but also to teach those with whom I work so they can constantly improve their writing. When I’m not editing books, I’m planting and growing things on a small homestead in Indiana with my husband and two children.

Angela Wade
Angela Wade

I have one goal: to create and shape cohesive, fluid, accessible copy that shifts perspective and makes a connection. With more than twelve years of experience in the writing and editing industry, I accomplish that goal through a passion for brainstorming, researching, planning, writing, and editing everything from grants to novels to marketing materials to websites. My articles, interviews, poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in various print and online publications, including Calyx Journal, Inkwell Magazine, Mindful Homeschooler, and Home Education Magazine.