The Microsoft Word Track Changes feature can be extremely useful if you edit or proofread documents on a regular basis. From freelance editors to collaborating authors to business executives, Microsoft Word’s Track Changes can make your life much simpler. Rather than printing out a document and editing the hard copy, you can show your edits on screen.
NOTE: The following tips are for the XP version of Microsoft Word, and may vary slightly for earlier or later editions.
In order to turn on the Microsoft Word Track Changes feature, simply open the document you want to edit and click Tools > Track Changes (CTRL + Shift +E). This automatically turns on Track Changes with the default settings. If you want to customize the settings, go to Tools > Options > Track Changes and select the drop-down boxes you want to manipulate.
Tip #1: Use Different Colors for Different Editors
If you are not the only one who will be editing a document, it sometimes helps to use different colors for each editor. For example, if you are a freelance editor passing a document back and forth with your client, you could use red edits while your client uses blue ones. This way, there will be no arguments over who creates which edits.
This can also work well in a business situation where a team of writers is working on one document. When you receive the newest changes, you’ll know exactly who edited what.
Tip #2: Turn Off Formatting
Unless you feel you really need it, you might want to turn off the formatting marks (found under Tools > Options > Track Changes). Formatting marks will show a black line down the left side of the page wherever a proofreading mark is made, which can make reading difficult.
I have always preferred just to use bright colors for edits so that clients or colleagues can see what I’ve done. It “messes up” the document much less and keeps things simple.
Tip #3: Pay Attention to Spacing
If you aren’t careful with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature, you can edit a document that has strange spacing and characters once you accept the changes. When you delete a word, phrase or punctuation mark (or delete a space), you get a colored line where the deletion took place.
This can look strange when you’re typing in a small font and you might not realize that you deleted too many spaces. So make sure to look over a document carefully once you’ve accepted the changes.
Tip #4: Highlight Comments
With Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature, you can insert comments to correspond with your edits. To make sure that your comments are visible to whoever you are editing for, select the Highlighting feature from Tools > Options > Track Changes. This will place a yellow (or whatever color you choose) highlight over the words for which you’ve written comments.
Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature is handy, but only if you use it correctly. If you have more questions, refer to the Help Menu in Microsoft Word to address some of those concerns.