Microsoft Word lets you track your edits with a feature called “Track Changes.” It lets you choose whether to track formatting and how to display insertions, deletions, and edits by author. What it doesn’t let you do, as far as I know, is to mark which changes are most important.
For example, in one document I edited, I changed “in the event that” to “if.” I also changed, in a citation, “U.S. Code” to “Code of Federal Regulations” (or maybe it was vice versa). The first change was good, reducing four words to one while retaining the full meaning. The second change was essential, because the wrong body of law had been cited. The author would see both changes tracked, but I didn’t see a way to easily mark the citation edit as essential.
There are ways to do it, and I asked the others I work with and Liz Dexter of LibroEditing for ideas. Here are some of their answers:
- Use Word’s comments feature to add a marginal note flagging essential edits.
- List the essential corrections on the separate style sheet.
- Use Word’s highlighter tool to mark the essential edits, and indicate to the author what the highlighting means.
These are all good ideas, but each has a drawback, mostly when there are a lot of essential edits:
- If you use comments, a lot of essential edits would mean lots of marginal notes. A bibliography might have a dozen essential edits per page, and a dozen marginal notes might look overwhelming.
- If you use a style sheet, then, as one of the editors pointed out, the author might not read the style sheet. Another possible problem is that in a long document, displaying or not displaying the tracked changes can affect which page an edit shows up on.
- If you use highlighting, that can clutter a document too and can overlap if there is more than one essential edit in the same spot.
The editors decided to try different methods. Do you have a better way, or do you see other benefits or drawbacks to any of the methods? If so, please leave a comment.</>