Technical Editing Tip: Using Track Changes

March 1, 2023 Breanne MacDonald

Whatever project you’re working on, it can be helpful to have another person review your work and help you polish it, whether that is an editor like me or a friend or colleague if you don’t have access to a professional editor. Many word processing programs can track those changes so you can see what edits were made and review which ones you’d like to accept or reject. 

Tracking Changes 

Many word processing or publishing programs have a track edits or track changes feature that lets you easily view any changes made to your work. This blog will focus on Microsoft Word specifically, as it’s widely known and easily accessible, but if you use a different program that has a track edits feature, chances are it works in a similar way. 

Before editing a document or sending your work to a reviewer, you can turn on the Track Changes function under the Review tab. When this is turned on, any change made to the document will be tracked. Insertions will be colored and underlined, while deletions are colored and  have a strikethrough added  (as you can see here). Reviewers can also add comments by clicking the New Comment button. 

Graphical user interface, application, Word

Description automatically generated

Reviewing Edits 

When reviewing tracked edits, you can use the Previous and Next buttons in the Changes panel to move from change to change. Click the Accept or Reject buttons to keep or remove the changes. One thing to watch out for is errors caused during this process – sometimes spaces can be added or removed accidentally, for example, that don’t become apparent until the markup has been accepted. Always read over the text again after you have accepted/rejected the changes. 

A quick tip: If there are numerous small changes, tracking can start to look messy or overwhelming (I explain in the next section how to change which markups are shown). It can also be tedious to accept each small change one by one. For example, you might have a sentence that looks like this: Edits such as like theseis ones makes it harder more tedious to accepting changes. In this case, it may be easier to accept all changes in the sentence, then review it as a whole to confirm the edits. You can highlight the entire sentence (or an entire paragraph!) before clicking Accept to accept all selected changes at once. 

Changing the View 

If you want to view all the changes in the document as a list, you can open the Reviewing Pane. You can also change which markups are shown. The drop-down list in the Tracking panel lets you choose to view the document as All Markup, Simple Markup, No Markup, or Original. As an editor, I will often use the No Markup option after an edit to read through a clean copy of the document to confirm my changes before sending the marked-up version back to the author for review. In this panel, you can also choose which markups to show (for example, show formatting changes in addition to insertions and deletions), how to show them (inline as demonstrated above or in bubbles out to the side), and which reviewers to show markups from.  

Locking Your Document 

If you want to be sure Track Changes is used, you can also set a password on your document to prevent tracking from being turned off. In the Tracking panel, click the drop-down arrow under the Track Changes button and select Lock Tracking. Enter a password (this is optional – you can lock tracking without a password, but your reviewer will be able to unlock it if they choose) and click OK

I hope you found this blog helpful and that you’ll use track changes when reviewing documents in the future! 

About the Author

Breanne MacDonald

Technical Editor<br><br>Fueled by her meticulous nature, an eye for detail, and a love of books, Breanne has been an editor for over 10 years. She has been a technical editor with ASCENT since 2019, and outside the office she is an avid volunteer with the Editors’ Association of Canada. Breanne holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a certificate in publishing from Ryerson University.

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