Over the past number of posts, I’ve stressed the importance of Track Changes and Comments as desirable features in your word processor. It is one of the main reasons I like Microsoft Word, especially for editing. Sometimes authors and business professionals look at me and ask: What are Comments and Track Changes and how do I use them? So what follows is a brief explanation and instruction manual. Once you know these things are available it is hard not to use them.

Comments: Comments are a way to pass notes back and forth, like sticky notes posted to certain sections or even words in a manuscript. So open your copy of word, and click on the review tab. You will see this:


You’ll notice in the screenshot above that I left myself a comment. I amused myself, and wanted to let myself know. (No comments from you, I know I’m schizophrenic but so am I) The comment box shows who made the comment, and when. This is a part of the document’s Meta Data.

Also take note that Track Changes is highlighted showing that it is active, and that the drop down box next to it says “All Markup”, the one below it says “Show Markup”. The one below that one that says “Reviewing Pane” we will look at later. Under those menus, you have options. For Markup you can choose from the menu No Markup, Simple Markup, or All Markup. All Markup is the best, because it shows changes and comments both you and the person you are working with on the other end make.

Markup Menus

Under Show Markup you can choose what you want the program to show you, from specific people, format changes, etc. Most of the time you want to show everything from everyone. There are few instances where you may not want everything visible, but most users will rarely encounter these. If this is confusing to you, just leave everything checked, including comments and balloons.

Now look at the screenshot below. You can see that I have made a change: I confused “you’re” with “your” and caught it. I also left myself a comment. Notice that I can “see” what I changed, just as you will be able to see what your editor has changed. This way you do not have to compare the file they send you with the one you sent them. The differences show up usually in red, but sometimes blue. This lets you know what they changed, but it does something much more important.

TrackchangesYou can accept or reject the change. Often editors make what we call “editorial suggestions.” These are not grammar or punctuation issues, but “rewording” of phrases or sentences that we think make your work stronger, sound better, or just work better for us. You can “reject” these changes. There are two ways to do this: you can hover your cursor over the area, right click, and then a dialogue box appears. Click on “accept insertion/deletion” to accept or on “reject” to reject. (Don’t worry, I’ve been rejected plenty of times)

revision pane1

Or you can turn on the Reviewing Pane. You can do this vertically or horizontally like I have done here. This shows you all the changes that have been made in the document, who made them, and when. Clicking on one of these changes in the reviewing pane takes you to that place in the document, and then you can either accept or reject that change using the accept/reject buttons up on the ribbon.

acceptrejectbuttonsThat’s a simple overview of these features. You can readily see from these examples how useful these can be. So why does the program you are using matter? Don’t many programs have these features?

Yes, they do. But if you and your editor or collaborator are using different programs, these advanced features may not translate. Why? This is due to coding, or the way these features are programmed. Microsoft especially is very proprietary about their programming, because they want you (and all of the business world) to keep buying and using their products.

Some programs do not have either of these features, and some have only one or the other. Alternatives to Word and Office are emerging (Most notably from Google) and we will explore some of those as we go along. But for now there’s your less on for the day. Play with these features, and learn to use them. In the long run they will become some of your best software friends.