By Cheri Lasota

Microsoft Word’s Track Changes is fast becoming the editing method of choice for many editors and writers. It has a lot of features, some limitations, and occasionally some jaw-dropping glitches that make you want to pour gasoline on your computer and light it on fire. (Whoa! is that just me?)

For writers who cannot afford to run off a copy of their 350-page masterpiece everytime somebody wants to read it, Track Changes is a viable choice. It also works for editors working with clients who live in another town, state, or country. In short, sometimes you need to use it, and knowing how to make the most of it will increase your speed and accuracy when editing.

Opening the Reviewing Toolbar 

This is part one of a three-part series on Track Changes. Part One will focus on what each feature of Track Changes does and where to find it. The easiest way to access Track Changes is by opening the Reviewing Toolbar. In Microsoft Word, go to View, Toolbars, then ensure Reviewing is checkmarked. This will open the Track Changes buttons you’ll need. Familiarizing yourself with these reviewing buttons and menus will be key to making the most of Track Changes.

Track Changes

Click on the pen and paper icon with the yellow asterisk in the upper left corner. This turns track changes on. You can toggle this feature off and on at will.

Reviewing Pane 

Click on the square icon with the blue arrow pointing up. This is the reviewing pane. Any changes that you make will show up in this pane.

New Comments 

The yellow page with an asterisk is the New Comment button. By default, when you open a new comment, you’ll either see a blank yellow bubble to the right of the screen or the reviewing pane will open up. Either way, comments can be a great tool, to give yourself reminders as you write, such as “Remember to research cow tipping for this scene” or “Look up quotation mark use in Chicago.” Comments cannot be automatically accepted or rejected in Track Changes, but they can be deleted when no longer needed.

Accept/Reject Changes

The button sporting a checkmark over a yellow page accepts changes entered into a document. The  yellow page with an “X” rejects such changes. Each of these buttons has several options you can choose from in drop-down lists. 

Next/Previous Changes

The yellow pages with blue right and left arrows simply move you from change to change within a document.

Stay tuned for next issue’s feature on Track Changes, when I will discuss how to make the most of this electronic editing tools.