Tag Archives: Track changes

Backing up tracked changes

Sometimes I want to see the tracked changes in Microsoft Word even when the author doesn’t. One writer has high confidence in my copy editing and wants to see only the changes that could alter the meaning from what he intended. He doesn’t want me to track my corrections of his punctuation, subject-verb agreement, or spelling.

However, sometimes I want to see those changes, especially if the document comes back revised. I may want to see where I corrected a name because I looked it up or where I made changes for consistency. Also, sometimes I do make errors in editing, and I want to go back and look at the editing and find out where I went wrong.

My solution is to work with a file that I label “markup.” It has all my tracked content changes. I save it for future reference, and then I save it with “edit” instead of “markup” in the file name. In the “edit” file, I go through and accept all the changes the author doesn’t want to see, leaving only the queries and the edits that could affect the meaning.

This method is acceptable, but if you have a better one, please post a comment and tell us about it.


Avoiding clutter when tracking changes

My friend and agent Dave Fessenden, who is a writer and editor, wrote:

Steve, I wanted to ask you a question on tech writing: do you use [Microsoft Word’s] track changes in your job?

I have to [format] documents with tracked changes/comment balloons all over the document. I have tried turning off the tracked changes, but since they are still there (though invisible), I have great difficulty doing things like moving an image to another page.…

What are your thoughts on this?


Yes, I always track content changes. That’s the key. I turn off Track Changes when moving an image, refreshing a table of contents, setting the whole document to U.S. English, or anything else that doesn’t need tracking or could be messed up by tracking (moving, or just editing in front of, a footnote reference in the text, for example). Generally I try to do all the formatting and layout first with Track Changes off, then edit, and always, if possible, work with “no markup” as the choice of what to show.

Whether to track changes and what markup to show are separate choices in the Track Changes menu. If you track the change when you move a picture, then when you show the markup you will see the picture where it was deleted and where it was pasted. If you track changes while refreshing the table of contents, the markup will show the old table of contents and the new one. The markup for these changes and for alterations in paragraph formatting and font size can really clutter up a document to the point where neither the author nor editor can easily see the important content changes. Even showing the content changes can make the text hard to read, which is why I usually edit with Track Changes turned on but not showing the markup as I work. After I’m done editing I normally go through the document with markup showing and review my editing, and I check the comments to see whether they all have been addressed and whether my own comments and queries are understandable and make sense.

By the way, before editing anything, I make a backup file of the original, in case I really mess something up, which happens more often than I care to think about.

Flagging essential corrections

When editing in Microsoft Word, I ordinarily track content changes—that is, spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and any other edits that alter the text. I don’t track formatting such as styles, deletion of extra spaces, or addition of nonbreaking spaces and hyphens. They don’t alter the content.

But all those content changes aren’t equal. Some reduce wordiness—for example, changing in the development of to developing. That’s worth doing, but it’s not crucial.

When I did most editing on paper, I often used two colors of ink: blue for changes that are worthwhile but not crucial, and red for essential things such as the company name misspelled.

The same writer who named “Steve’s Hall of Shame” gave me another good suggestion: mark the crucial changes by inserting a note using Word’s Comment feature. That way, somebody who goes through the document accepting and rejecting changes will be alerted that there’s an important edit that shouldn’t be overlooked or accidentally rejected.

Do you have any other methods of flagging changes according to their importance?