Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Using Track Changes

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page.

Using Track Changes is standard practice for almost every publisher when editing manuscripts. Many agents prefer this method of noting comments, corrections, and suggestions in submissions. Some contests use it for feedback in entries. Every writer needs to know how to use track changes within a Word document.

Most times, Word will open with track changes already on if the document has been edited or critiqued with that method. If it doesn’t, you can turn it on manually by going to the “Review” tab and clicking on the switch above “Track Changes” in Word for Mac 2011. You’ll find track changes in a similar location in other versions of word. Comment bubbles will appear in the right margin to show comments and changes. Look within the document for additions of commas, apostrophes, etc. You’ll see a black vertical line in the margin wherever these additions have been made.

For anonymity as a contest judge, change the “Security” setting under the “Word” toolbar tab and “Preferences.” Set “Security” to remove personal information upon saving the document. Some versions of Word allow the user to create a name to use for track changes, such as Judge 101 or Red-Pen Editor.

To respond to a comment within the existing comment bubble, click inside the bubble and type.

To accept changes and corrections made to the document, click on the checkmark at the top of the comment bubble. To reject and omit the changes and corrections, click on the X. The comment bubble will disappear when accepted or rejected, so do this only if you wish to delete the comment. Be sure to “Save” the document to save your changes.

To add a new comment, click on “New” under “Comments” within the “Review” tab in Word for Mac 2011 or similar command in other versions. A comment bubble will appear in the right margin near the location of the highlighted word you wish to address in the document. Sections of text may be highlighted if the comment refers to a phrase, sentence, paragraph, or scene. Type your comment in the bubble. Be sure to “Save” the document to save your comments.

Make corrections within the document while track changes is on to show where corrections have been made. A bubble will appear when spaces, letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols are deleted from the text. The addition of spaces, letters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols will show in the default color or the color you’ve chosen for your comments. You can set your color choices by clicking on “Preferences” in the “Show Markup” drop-down menu. A vertical black line will also appear in the margin to designate the area. Again, “Save” the document to save your changes.

Now you know how to use track changes. Practice with critique partners, beta-readers, or during self-editing to get comfortable with it.

A word of caution about track changes—When using the feedback of critiques, beta-reads, judged contest entries, and self-edits, ALWAYS make your changes in a clean document. Don’t depend on those accept, reject, and delete comment buttons to make track changes bubbles disappear forever. Once in a while, they reappear when track changes is turned on. I’ve judged contest entries with comments in the manuscript before I’ve started my critiques. Don’t let this happen when you’re submitting to your dream agent or editor!

Track changes—Do you love it or hate it?

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With a Kick!


  1. Hey - I've missed your writing tips! I must go back and read your 'career topics' ones.

    Track changes is wonderful ... if you are familiar with it and a nightmare to explain to anyone who isn't! Thankfully I was familiar with it when I had my very first edits. But once you've got used to it, much better than getting handwritten edits on paper sent in the post!

    Thanks for posting.

    1. Great to see you, Jen! Yes, track changes can be difficult to use at first. It takes some getting used to, but having the comments off to the side instead of cluttering up your manuscript is worth the learning curve. :)

  2. I like using track changes, but you do have to be careful about comments remaining in the file. What I do is view all comments and delete any that are still there. Another thing is that in my version of Word sometimes you can't delete a comment with track changes on so you have to turn it off, but remember to turn it back on when doing edits. You did a great job of explaining how to use track changes.

    1. Thanks, Celtic Chick! Track changes has a few quirky habits, doesn't it? :)