Using MS Word Track Changes, with visual aids

Greetings!

This evening’s post is about a tool that I use quite a bit in both my jobs, the day job and the writing job, and I’ve heard through the Twitter grapevine that there are a number of writers who haven’t heard of this tool, or don’t know how to use it.

I’m taking it upon myself to provide a layman’s guide to MS Word’s Track Changes feature. Once you start using it, it’s hard to imagine editing, or incorporating edits, without it!

Click any image to make it larger. Sorry the embedded images are so small.

Step One: Turning On Track Changes

Best to start simply. I’ll run through all three steps in Word 2010 as well as the older version. Below, you can see Word 2010.

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In the upper menu, locate the Review tab and click on it.

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The “Track Changes” button is right in the middle of the review toolbar. When you hover over it, it lets you know the keyboard shortcut as well as what it does. Click Track Changes once, and you turn it on. After you’re done incorporating changes and using the feature, click it again to turn it off.

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Once you’ve turned on Track Changes, anything that is added or deleted will be tracked in a different color. (Usually red, if you’re the first person making changes.) Deletions will be strikethroughs. There’s also a handy line on the left-hand side to let you skim through and notice paragraphs that may contain tiny changes, such as comma deletions/additions.

Step Two: Accepting and Rejecting Changes

Using the Accept/Reject changes feature took me a bit longer with Word 2010, because they made separate buttons for “comments only” vs “all changes.”

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Over on the upper right part of the toolbar, you have the review buttons. When you click “next,” it highlights the next change that your editor made.

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Here we have the “accept” button highlighted. The “Accept” button in Word 2010 will accept the editor’s proposed change and automatically move you to the next one. This is a fantastic feature when you have a lot of edits to get through but, like me, you’re a control freak and want to look at every single one of them. ^_^

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And here you can see I’ve gone through several edits and accepted each one of them, bringing me to the comment. There are a couple of things to do with your editor’s comments. My personal preference is to leave the comment there if there’s something I’m adding to resolve the comment. Track changes is still on, so my editor will see what I’m adding in response to her comment. In this case, it’s a comment I’ve resolved in the previous volume, so I don’t need it. Click the “Reject” button highlighted in the circle.

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The comment disappears, and the next comment is highlighted. Now I’m going to show you how to delete the comment, but add a change to resolve it. The editor made a suggestion about something my character would be very likely to do. In this case, I rejected the comment…

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…and I added a little to the sentence, incorporating my editor’s suggestion.

Step Three: Adding Comments

The third feature I’ll show is how to add your own comment. This feature is especially useful if you need to reply to a comment that your editor made. Rather than replying in the editor’s comment (which they wouldn’t necessarily notice), it’s better to add your own, so they can use their own review pane to go through your comments in turn.

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To add a comment, select a chunk of text. Usually you’ll be selecting a specific sentence, paragraph, or passage to which your comment applies. Notice the “new comment” button above.

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After you’ve highlighted your text, click new comment, and type away! Here I’m adding a comment to my own document so that, when I go through and self-edit, I remember to consider adding more detail.

And that’s using Track Changes for MS Word 2010! Here’s a quick rundown of the same features for the older version of Word.

Step One: Turning On Track Changes

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You may need to add the Review buttons from the Tools menu, I’m sorry I skipped that step. Basically I always have the Review toolbar open on my old Word program.

Here, I’ve circled the Track Changes button to show you where to locate it on the toolbar and turn it on.

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And a quick example of some changes I made, with Track Changes enabled.

Step Two: Accepting and Rejecting Changes

There are no separate buttons for comments and changes here. The arrow keys will take you to and from every change and comment in the document.

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Here, the first change I made is highlighted.

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Click the “Accept” button to accept the change. If you click the downward arrow beside it, you get the option to accept all changes in the document. I only recommend that option if you’ve read and agreed with all changes. My preferred method is going over each change individually, but your mileage may vary.

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Here, the previous change has been accepted. Unlike Word 2010, you have to click the “Next” button to get to the next change or comment.

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After accepting a few changes, I came along a change that I’m not going to incorporate exactly. So, here, we’ll click the “Reject” button.

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I made a different word choice, and Track Changes is still on, so the editor will be able to see that change.

Step Three: Adding Comments

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Pretty much the same! Select your text.

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Add your comment. And there you have it!

Hope this has been somewhat helpful. If you’ve got other tips and tricks, or handy Track Changes tutorials of your own, feel free to share the word. And do let me know if this helped you in any way. 🙂

Have a great rest of the weekend, everyone – go out and enjoy the super moon!

5 comments

  1. It’s funny how everyone’s Track Changes looks so different. My TC options are always tweaked so insertions are blue, deletions red, font changes grey, and moves are green. I also turn off comment bubbles. I use the review pain to view comments and the “author” of the changes. The bubbles drive me absolutely crazy.

    1. Hahaha, my insertions are pink because I’m a loser, my deletions are red, and the rest is preeeetty much standard? Sometimes I highlight in like, teal. But that’s rare. And good idea re: the review pain! The bubbles don’t bug me.

      You’re using 2010, right? 😕

      1. Those stupid bubbles just nag at me. I must be a super special snowflake or something. ^^

        I tried using colors other than blue and red for inserting & deleting but they just didn’t sit right with me. So… standard fair it is.

        I highlight in different colors depending on why I’m highlighting, though most of my highlighting is for repetitive words. If I come across two separate words that repeat within the same page or paragraph, I’ll switch colors to differentiate them.

        Laptop–which I use primarily–is 2010. My desktop is 2007, a difference which is fairly negligible as far as I’ve ever noticed.

  2. This would have been helpful back when I was editing my first book. I think you’ll really help new authors a lot.

    For anyone’s reference, the buttons look completely different and are placed differently on Mac MS Word, but the basic idea is the same. Find the review tab and all the same functions are still there.

    1. Thanks, Mell! I do hope it proves handy for some folks.

      That’s really helpful to know, thank you. My girlfriend has Mac MS Word but she doesn’t use Track Changes, that I know of. Glad that they kept it functionally similar.

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