How to use Microsoft Word’s Track Changes tool
In a recent article we talked in detail about BSi proofeading marks and how they’re still used by many proofreaders and editors. While this is true, the majority of Full Proof’s customers are not familiar witih these symbols. Thankfully, Microsoft Word (and indeed Google Docs and other services) has a very helpful feature called Track Changes. This article explains how to use this excellent tool.
Finding Track Changes
Open Word on your computer and click on the Review tab, then click on Track Changes to turn it on. You can also turn the Track Changes tool on and off by simply pressing Ctrl+shift+e.
Using Track Changes
With Track Changes switched on, you will notice that any changes you make to the document are now automatically highlighted (in red, usually). If you delete a word, that word will appear in a balloon to the right of the screen which says ‘deleted’. If you add a word, it will appear in red, so that you can easily see that it is an addition to the original text.
I mentioned that the deleted word will be in a balloon on the right of the page. If your Track Changes settings are configured differently, the word will instead be crossed out. This means that in your Track Changes settings, you have deletion method set to ‘strikethrough’. This is an old-school method which personally I dislike because it is messy and confusing. I recommend clicking on Show Markup, hovering over Balloons and selecting Show Revisions in Balloons. All your revisions will now appear in balloons on the right-hand side of the screen.
As well as tracking your changes, Word also allows you to insert comments into the document. These also appear in balloons and are useful for inserting suggestions or highlighting sentences that require further clarification from the author.
Accepting Or Rejecting Changes
When the document is returned to the author, they will see all the changes highlighted, providing Track Changes is still switched on. There are various ways that you can accept or reject changes. If you hover over each one and right click your mouse, you can accept or reject them indvidually. Or if you want to accept all the changes in one go, you can do so by clicking on the ‘Accept’ dropdown in the toolbar and choosing the ‘Accept All Changes in Document’ option (the same applies for mass rejection of changes – just click on the ‘Reject’ button and then ‘Reject All Changes in Document).
Toggling Between Original And Final Versions
You can also toggle between the original document, the final version with changes highlighted, and the final version. Whenever you have track changes turned on, there will be a window at the top of the screen which says ‘Final Showing Markup’. Markup here refers to the changes and comments that are on screen. If you switch to ‘Final’, it shows you a version of the document with all the changes incorporated but not highlighted on screen. This is another way of accepting all of the changes in one go, with the advantage that you can always revert back to the original version or the final version showing markup.
Confused? You won’t be!
These instructions are probably rather a lot to take in, and I have no doubt made it sound more complicated than it actually is. The best thing to do is go and have a play around with it yourself and refer back to this guide if and when you need it. If you do have any questions, please contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.
Nick Jones is a proofreader, editor and award-winning author. He is the owner of Full Proof, a UK proofreading agency established in 2004. A devoted dad, music obsessive and Man Utd fan, he lives with his two kids in Cheshire.