Articles / On Writing

Track Changes – The Basics

 

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I discovered track changes in Microsoft Word. What a wonderful feature! It allows collaborators to make changes to a document while preserving the original until a change is made permanent. The best part is that each collaborator’s revisions and comments are tracked separately and appear in a different color. What this means for authors is that all changes you, your editor, your proofreader, your beta reader, your pre-reader, your mom, or anyone else other person who has something to add to your manuscript are tracked in a different color.

But like all wonderful inventions, there is a learning curve. Fortunately, the learning curve for track changes isn’t that steep, and just about everything you do can be undone. For those of you who are just beginning to use track change or if you’re struggling to learn it, I’ve put together a quick explanation to get you started or past the learning curve. I will cover the basics of turning on track changes, adding comments, making changes or deletions, accepting changes, rejecting changes, and deleting comments. These instructions are for users of MS Word 2007, 2010, and 2013. If you are using an older version of Word, the function is still the same, but earlier versions of Word do not use the same menu ribbon at the top and since I don’t have a copy of those versions, I can’t walk you through it here, but YouTube is bound to have a video or two.

 

Turning on Track Changes

On the top ribbon or menu bar, find the “Review” tab and click on it. Look for the icon labeled “Track Changes.” Now if you simply want to turn on this feature, click on this icon. Word will now track every change, addition, or deletion until track changes is turned off. Any changes will remain tracked in the document regardless of whether Track Changes is on or off and will stay that way until you accept or reject the changes. And when I say changes, I mean everything from a single period or space that was added or deleted to vast rewrites and comments.

Pic 1 - Turn On TC HL

Figure 1

 

Adding a Comment

One of the best features about track changes is the ability to add comments in the margin instead of in line. To add a comment, select (highlight with cursor) the phrase, paragraph, section, etc. you want to comment on. If you want to comment on one word, simply place the cursor somewhere on that word, no selecting needed. Then return to the “Review” tab on the menu bar and select “Add Comment.”

Pic 2 - TC Adding a Comment

Figure 2

 

For the savviest user, you can use the short cut by pressing CTRL ALT M. If you are in print view, a comment bubble or window will open in the right hand column.

Pic 3 - TC Comment Bubble

Figure 3

 

If you are in the draft view, a column will appear on the left hand side of the page. You have the option to change this one to the bottom of the page by selecting the “Reviewing Pane” under the “Review” tab on the menu ribbon. Type your comment. To get out of comment, simply click somewhere in the text of your manuscript.

Pic 4 - TC Comments in draft view

Figure 4

 

Making Changes or Deletions

Any changes you make, any, will be tracked even if it’s deleting an extra space or adding a period. This is important to know for later when you need to clear the document of all tracked changes. Figure 5 below is an example of what a document might look like after it has gone through a few revisions with editors or readers.

Pic 6 - TC Page with TC

Figure 5

Notice the comments and changes in this document are in either red (User JS) and blue (User JW). The green section indicates something that was moved from a different location within the document.

NOTE: Any tracked changes will remain in the document until they have been accepted or rejected. If you send your manuscript to a book formatter to create your e-books or to a printer to print your book, it will include both the original and the revised versions of the changes. This will make your work look sloppy and fill your book with unnecessary errors.

 

Accepting Changes

Word allows you to accept changes individually, all at once for the entire document, or for a highlighted section of your manuscript. To accept changes individually place your cursor on the word or element that has changed. Go to the Review tab and select “Accept.” Word will accept the change and move to the next change. A faster option is to click the right mouse button and select “Accept Change” from the pulldown menu.

Pic 8 - TC Accept Changes

Figure 6

 

If you don’t want to move on, you may select the little caret at the bottom of the Accept icon and select the “Accept Change” option that does not move to the next change. To accept changes to a highlighted section follow the instructions above after highlighting a selection of text with the cursor.

To accept all changes to a document, return to the review tab and select the little caret at the bottom of the “Accept” icon and click on the “Accept All Change in Document” option from the pulldown menu. This option will accept every revision made to the document and the best way to insure that all changes you want to accept, however small, have been incorporated into the document.

 

Rejecting Changes

Word allows you to reject changes individually, all at once for the entire document, or for a highlighted section of your manuscript.

To reject changes individually place your cursor on the word or element that has changed. Go to the Review tab and select “Reject.” Word will accept the change and move to the next change. A faster option is to click the right mouse button and select “Reject Change” from the pulldown menu.

Pic 9 - TC Reject Changes

Figure 7

 

If you don’t want to move on, you may select the little caret at the bottom of the Reject icon and select the “Reject Change” option that does not move to the next change.

To reject changes to a highlighted section, follow the instructions above after highlighting a selection of text with the cursor.

To reject all changes to a document, return to the review tab and select the little caret at the bottom of the “Reject” icon and click on the “Reject All” option from the pulldown menu. This option will reject every revision made to the document.

 

Removing Comments

Word allows you to remove comments individually or all at once for the entire document from your manuscript.

To remove comments individually from the document, place your cursor on the comment you want to remove and select it (click on it). Go to the “Review” tab and select “Delete” in the “Comments” section. This will remove the comment and move down to the next comment. A fast option is to click the right mouse button and select “Delete Comment” from the pulldown menu.

Pic 10 - TC Delete Comments

Figure 8

 

If you want to delete all comments from the manuscript, go to the “Review” tab and select the little caret at the bottom of the “Delete” icon in the Comments section. Select “Delete All Comments in Document” from the pulldown menu. This will insure that all comments have been removed.

 

Additional Instruction

YouTube has a number of wonderful how-to videos about using Tracked Changes in Word. Here are a few.

Word 2013

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5OrMmCc3_4

Word 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUf-IxzXyVk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lVqVW1yRlM

Word 2007

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uANGRpCEucg

 

For the Savvier User

If you’re ready to go a little further down the rabbit hole, read my articles “Track Changes – Intermediate” and “Track Changes – Advanced” to find out what Track Changes can do for you. And if you need editing, ask for a free sample edit from Write Divas. We’d love to help!

Now… go write something!

 


Comments

  1. Great tool. I’ve started really using this function for only my own edits. The multiple versions were piling up and cluttering my drives, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to delete the older ones. You know how that goes . . . just in case.

    I’m not at the point yet, where readers and/or editors would be involved, but I have to say that tracking my own changes has become so much smoother.
    I write myself notes–as changes and remember to followup on them, because they are so visible.

    Wish I’d had the benefit of your walk-through when I first decided to use the tool–would have made learning to negotiate my way through Track Changes so much easier.

    Thanks for taking the time and making the effort to address this Word feature.

    Each Divas’ post is a goldmine!
    eb

    • Track changes is a great tool and makes my job as an editor so much easier. But I love it as an author too because, like you, I can leave myself notes to expand, correct, or change something later so I don’t get sidetracked self-editing before the writing is done. Thank you for taking the time to leave that great comment! ~ Janine

  2. Thank you. Excellent presentation of the tracking system.

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