Editing Tip: How to use ‘Track Changes’
When your editor returns your manuscript, you’re going to be excited, nervous, and maybe a little upset for a moment when you see all the red. Don’t worry, that’s normal. But, this red isn’t figurative. If you sent your manuscript as a Microsoft Word document, your editor likely used “Track Changes,” which is the most efficient way to identify issues and keep them listed where the author can accept or reject each change accordingly. You, as the author, can also read the editor’s comments and review them.
But, some might not understand how to get rid of these changes, how to reject them without adding another tracked change, how to accept them, or how to remove the comments as they’re read. For that matter, how do you turn it off so your changes aren’t tracked, too?
Hopefully, this will help.
Turning on/off Track Changes
For these examples, we’ll use my WIP, Rescued. Yay for sneak peaks! Okay, so at the top of your ribbon in MW, you’ll see the tabs: File, Home, Insert, etc. Look for Review. That tab has all sorts of goodies, not just for editing, but for your writing. In the Tracking section, which is almost directly under the Review tab in your ribbon, if you click the button that says Track Changes (the words, not the pictures), you’ll get a drop-down menu with options to track changes or lock tracking. Clicking the image will just turn on the change feature, but if you click the arrow instead, you’ll have that lock tracking option, too.
So, it’s on. Awesome. Now, you’ll turn it off the same way. When your editor returns your manuscript, it’s likely to already be on, so you won’t need to worry about this part until you want to turn if off because you’ve dealt with all changes or until you want to turn it on. For whatever reason that might be.
Just so you know, when you do want to turn off Track Changes, you won’t remove the comments. We’ll get into that part later, but it’s a good tip to keep if you want to run through the simpler changes first after receiving your edit back. Then, after you finish accepting, rejecting all the tracked changes made by your editor, you can turn it off and work on the big stuff you’ll find in the comments.
But, how do you accept or reject changes? That’s next.
If you look back up at your ribbon beside that Track Changes button, you’ll see three options to the right.
You can play with it, but all we’ll need is that first one with the drop-down menu. You can choose “Simple Markup,” “All Markup,” or “No Markup.” The Simple Markup option allows you to see where changes were made, but you’ll have to either click on the small red line or go to “All Markup” to see what changes were made.
When you look at All Markups, it is a bit messy and that’s where you see all the red. You can use any of these options to view your changes during your revision process, and they’ll act the same. It will also show you what each change is as you go through no matter what option you choose. It’s just preference. Below is what the “All Markup” option looks like.
This will make what I said just now seem useless, but I wanted to show you what everything meant. Once you start revising with this, it goes straight to All Markup. No biggie. It’ll look crazy. It doesn’t look like it with the few changes I made, but when it comes back from an editor, your work (and mine, because I need an editor as much as you do), will be beautiful and bloody with corrections. Yes, it’s a beautiful thing. It means once you clean it up, it will be better than it was before. The more red, the more learning. The more learning, the better you become.
Wherever your cursor is clicked on the page, that’s where your changes will start being “noticed” by the Changes section. If you click on “Accept,” it’ll take you to the first change made after your cursor. So, I suggest clicking on the first sentence on Page 1 before doing this.
Whether you click accept or reject, you’ll go to the first change and have to click it again. This is fine. Look at the change; if you want it, accept it. If you don’t, reject it. This is the part that will cause you the most grief because now you have to choose what you want. This is your manuscript. The editor is not the final set of eyes. You are. You choose what stays and what goes. If you want to reword something, reword it before accepting/rejecting a change. Look at them, though. Don’t speed through this process. You don’t want to accidentally leave a space somewhere or link two words together because you accepted a change without reading. If you mess up, go back. Ctrl + z OR Command + z.
Take your time, take breaks, and do NOT ever click the drop-down menu and “Accept All Changes.” Same with rejecting. Otherwise, what did your editor do all that work for?
If you don’t know whether you want to keep something yet, simply click “Next” or “Previous” to go to another change. Simple. It will circle back around to the change when you’re done and ready to return to it.
Take a breath, it’s time for the comments
If you haven’t noticed already, you have a section next to Tracking labeled “Comments.” This is pretty self-explanatory. You can write your own comments, delete a comment you’ve clicked on, go to the next one, or go back. You will also notice the gray box that says “Show Comments.” If this isn’t already clicked, click it. You’ll want to see them all.
And this is what your comments will look like. NOTE: I’m having fun with this, so understand that I, and hopefully whoever you choose as your editor, will never tell you something like this. If any editor does, I’ll tell you now . . . Your writing is never “all wrong.” If someone tells you that, talk to me, and we’ll work on something. No, I won’t beat them up for you. I’m not that aggressive.
And, yes, I did that stuff on purpose. I broke rules. O.O The font thing is just for me, though.
I hope this helped. I didn’t think about this until recently, so let me know if you have any questions. Remember, when you’re done, you need to turn off the Track Changes feature before you start working on everything again because your changes will be tracked. Also, if your editor requires the manuscript for a final edit, please make sure all your changes are made and your document is free of comments, notes, and any tracked changes. With all comments, make sure you click on the comment or inside the box of the comment to delete it. MW needs to know what it’s deleting.
Other than that, I think I covered all the basic things. Play with it a little to understand the other features of the Review tab and the other little parts and pieces that make up the Track Changes and Comments sections.
Good luck and happy revising!