How to Use Word’s Track Changes

As an author, you have full control of the final version of your manuscript, since you can chose to accept or reject any change the editor makes. However, you can accidentally mess it up if you are not careful. Books have printed with errors an editor corrected, but the author accidentally missed accepting.

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What it Looks Like and the Different Views 

Simply put Track Changes does exactly what it sounds like: it tracks the changes made using strikethroughs and different color text.

  • Suggested deletions will have a strikethrough.
  • Suggested additions will be underlined and in a different color.
  • Moved text should appear in green and double underlined (this is a fickle feature—it doesn’t always work, unfortunately).

No markup view


Sometimes it helps to read the text with all the changes accepted. You aren’t actually accepting the changes, you are previewing what the text will look like with all changes accepted.

To do this, go to review  –> in the tracking drop-down select “No Markup.” (Depending on your version of Word, you may have different options in your drop-down menu. So instead of “No Markup,” you may see “Final.”)

Here is the tracked paragraph in the “No Markup” view:


Original view


You can also view the original document—what you handed to the editor. This is your document with all the changes rejected.

To do this, go to review –> in the tracking drop-down menu select “Original.”

Here is the tracked paragraph in the “Original” view:


All Markup View


To go back to seeing the tracked changes, just select “All Markup” from the drop-down menu.



Turning Tracked Changes On and Off

When you are working with the document, you will accept and reject changes (explained in the section below), and you will also add your own changes.

To help your editor out, make sure you have tracked changes turned on so the editor can clearly see your changes.

Your changes will appear in a different color than your editor’s.

To turn on tracked changes, go to the review tab –>  click on track changes in the tracking section.

To turn it off, just click on it again.



How to Accept and Reject Changes

Below are the instructions for two different methods: the one-by-one method, and the only reject changes and then accept the rest method.

One-by-one method


While this is not the method I recommend, it may work better for you.

You can go through each change one-by-one and accept or reject them either by right clicking next to the change or using the accept/reject buttons.

In our example paragraph, the editor changed “containing” to the correct “contains.” To accept the change, the author could right click and then select “accept insertion” (accept the added “s”) and then right click again and then select “accept deletion” (accept the deleted –ing).

Or instead of right clicking, the author could use the accept/reject buttons. If you click on the accept button, it will bring up the drop-down menu, and you can choose to “accept and move to next change” or just “accept this change.”

It helps to click “accept and move to next change” so that you don’t miss a change.

In the image below, you will see the cursor is on the first change: the added s. So by clicking on “accept and move to next change,” it will accept the s, and then move to the deleted –ing.


Only reject changes and then accept the rest method (RECOMMENDED)


Typically, authors will end up rejecting far less than they end up accepting. So I tell my authors to go through and only reject the ones they don’t want.

I find it quicker to use the right click, but you can use the buttons if that works for you.

Just read the document, and then when you get to a change you don’t want, put your cursor next to it, right click it and select reject, or click on the reject button.


(See the section “How to Know If You Have Missed a Change” below to ensure you don’t miss a change.)

After you have rejected all the changes you don’t want, the only ones left are the ones you want to accept, so you can accept them all at once.

To do this, first you want to deselect your name so you don’t accept changes you made. (Make sure there is no checkmark next to your name. In the image below, editor has been deselected) This will hide all of your changes and only show the editor’s changes.

Now you will accept all changes shown.

If you want, before you click on accept all changes, you can select the “No Markup” view. This will show you what the document will be with all the rest of the changes accepted. As you read through the preview, you may notice you missed one you wanted to reject. So then go back to “All Markup” view, and reject that change.

Once you are satisfied the only changes remaining are the ones you want, select “accept all changes shown.”


How to Know If You Missed a Change


Some changes are very small, and you might not notice them.

So let’s say a paragraph contains one small change: an added semicolon. And you personally don’t like semicolons. You would rather the two independent clauses be two separate sentences or be joined by a coordinating conjunction and a comma.

However, when you were going through rejecting changes you didn’t want, this change slipped by you.

First, view the document zoomed in. Zoom in as far as you can while ensuring you can see all the text on a given line. (You don’t want to have to scroll horizontally.)

Next, note that Word will show a line next to any paragraph containing a change. So if you see a line next to a paragraph, you know to check that paragraph for a change.

In the image below, there is one inserted semicolon. In the left-hand margin, a solid gray line indicates that this paragraph contains a change.


Working with Comments


Your editor will make three kinds of comments in the margin:

  • comments to explain why they made a particular change
  • comments suggesting you add content or make some other change the editor didn’t or couldn’t make directly in the text
  • queries asking you clarifying questions

Typically, you don’t need to respond to the comments explaining why they made a particular change. Those comments are there to help you make an informed decision on whether you want to accept or reject a change.

Sometimes you may need to respond to the suggestion comments, and you will always need to respond to the query comments.

The example below contains one of each type. If I were editing this, I wouldn’t have included the last two comments. I made them up just for example sake.

Responding to a comment


To respond, you can hover over the comment, and then click on the button that appears in the top right corner. Or you can right click on the comment and select “reply to comment.”

When you do this, it puts a response box underneath the comment with your name.


Deleting or marking a comment as done


Your editor may have a preference on whether you mark a comment as done or delete it entirely when you have either finished reading it or applying the suggested change.

If the editor didn’t say, you may want to ask.

To do this, just right click on the comment and either select delete or mark as done.

Marking it as done will keep the comment there, but it will be light gray.

Inserting a Comment


If you need to insert a comment for your editor, highlight the text the comment is referencing and click “new comment” in the comments section of the review tab.


That’s it! Enjoy the wonderful editing process as you and your editor work together to make your manuscript the best it can be in the time allotted.


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