How to Deal with Tracked Changes in Word

How to deal with tracked changes

When you receive an edited file from your editor, your first thoughts might be quite overwhelming.

You’ve spent weeks, months or even years getting your document just right. Or so you thought.

You open up your Word document, and there in front of you is a sea of comments, deletions and additions. It’s enough to make a writer close down the computer and go do something less scary instead.

This is all perfectly normal. Even the best written document will have some changes noted.

But fear not, there’s a way to make the revision task easier – it just involves a few tweaks and a cup of tea (the tea is not essential, but everything is better with a cup of tea).

How to deal with tracked changes:


1. Don’t panic. Be prepared.

When you open up your document, be prepared for a lot of changes. Not every change will have been tracked, (for example, your editor is not likely to have allowed Word to track every deleted extra space, paragraph return or tab) but the more changes, the more cluttered your manuscript will look.


Take a deep breath, take it all in, then be prepared to knuckle down to the job in hand.


2. Change the tracked changes to your own preference.

If you are confident, you can change the tracked changes to look easier to your eye.

We all have a preferred way of working, so it’s perfectly fine to make the changes look the way you want them to. Whatever makes you more comfortable is always best.

When I work, my preferences are to have additions noted in blue, deletions in grey bubbles, format changes in red bubbles and comments in green bubbles. I feel that this allows the text to look less cluttered, and any additions and deletions easily be seen without fighting for space.


One of my documents would look like this:

How to deal with tracked changes 1
(it’s one of my very rough starts to a piece of writing for a short story, just ignore the content!)


If you want to change to your own preferences here’s how you do it. I use Word 2007 but your version should be similar.

  • First, go to the Review tab.
  • Make sure Track Changes is highlighted (if it isn’t click on it to allow your changes to be tracked).
  • Make sure the box shows ‘Final Showing Markup’ to allow you to actually see the changes.

tracked changes screenshot 2


Then, to change your preferences, click on the little down arrow on the bottom right of the Track Changes box and some options should appear, like this:

tracked changes 3


Click on ‘Change Tracking Options …’ and then you’ll see the following:

Screenshot (109)

Here you can alter how the tracked changes will appear. You can see my insertions are underlines in blue, deletions are strikethroughs in gray, and my formatting is coloured by author, which makes them red, etc. However, I’ve chosen to always show balloons, so the deletions, formatting and comments will appear in the right-hand side margin.

If you prefer to have deletions show in the text just click on ‘Only for comments/formatting’ in the Balloons section:

Screenshot (110)


Then perhaps change the colour to teal to allow you to easily see where deletions have occurred:

tracked changes screenshot 7


When you hit the OK button you’ll see your preferences have changed:

Screenshot (112)

OK, so now you should have your preferences changed and are ready to review your document.


3. Work through your document.

Once you’re comfortable with what you are seeing, work through the document in the way that feels best for you. You may want to work through it all in one sweep, or you might want to look at the comments first. If you want to do this you can show only certain changes to the document, for example, see only the changes or see only the comments.

Here you’ll see only the comments:

Click on the ‘Show Markup’ box and make sure only ‘Comments’ and ‘Markup Area Highlight’ are selected. The markup area isn’t mandatory, but I find it better if this area is coloured.

tracked changes screenshot 9


And here, by deselecting ‘Comments’ and selecting ‘Insertions and Deletions’, the comments disappear and the insertions and deletions are shown:

tracked changes screenshot 11


Work methodically through your document, but remember that your editor has good reasons for every change.

Don’t bother to accept everything as you go along (you can accept all at the end), but reject any changes that you have good reason to reject. Keep in mind that any rejections may alter the sentences around them and have a domino effect. To reject a change simply use the ‘Reject’ buttons at the top of the pane, or right-click on the area you want to reject.

Remember though, for example, if you reject the deletion of a capital letter, you will also have to reject the insertion of the lowercase letter!


Work through your manuscript, answer any questions or address any comments, and make sure you are happy with your document.

Usually you can now, if you want to, go back to your editor for one final look through. This is to allow them to make sure your changes are OK and all comments have been addressed. Make sure that YOUR changes have been tracked though so your editor can quickly see what has been changed. (Do make sure that this is how your editor works, and that the final look through is included in your package, some editors may charge extra for this).


4. Finalise your manuscript

Now, finally, when everything is acceptable, you can accept all changes. Go to the ‘Accept’ box in the reviewing pane and click on the little down arrow. Now you will see a few choices, just click on ‘Accept all changes in document’ and this will accept everything.

tracked changes screenshot 12


You now have a ‘clean’ document.

tracked changes screenshot 13


I hope this quick tutorial has been of some use to you.

Always remember, that while that first view of your edited document can be a shock, it means that you are on your way to producing a quality product. Be proud of your achievements, and look forward to the next step with confidence.

8 Comments on “How to Deal with Tracked Changes in Word

  1. You’ve done a wonderful job at demystifying and simplifying the one thing about my job that still gives me fits. Thank you, Sarah.

  2. Excellent post. My new client won’t work with Track Changes. She prefers that I change text to red for insertions, use strikethrough for deletions, and make comments in all caps with yellow highlighting—manually recreating the interface, which makes a clean read impossible and invites inputting errors on her end. I’d love to share this info with her, but I think she’d resist learning the steps to empower editing with Track Changes. Sigh…

    • O.M.G. I feel your pain. I would either refuse or, I’m afraid to say, charge by the hour and make sure I was getting paid enough to make this worthwhile. I’ve made this post a free download on my resources page … by all means download it and send it to her. It *might* help?
      I think too many people are frightened of breaking something (I once worked with mature students and the first thing I had to tell them was ‘don’t be frightened, it takes a lot to kill a computer’) 😉

      • Thanx for the swift response. I’ve adapted to the client’s method, i.e., learned strikethrough and all-caps shortcuts, left my cursor hovering over the red type button. It’s two editions of a menswear magazine, sponsored content for a national newspaper (read: blue-chip client), with more work to come. It’s easier for me to accept the draconian method, as it’s not my place to change process, even if it goes against best practices. Lucky for me, the stories are under 1,000 words each. If the pieces were longer or more complex, I might push back a bit harder. So far, so good, if tiresome.

      • Oh, that’s not too bad then. I had visions of an 80k word tome self-pubbing author. Keyboard shortcuts will be a Godsend.

Leave a Reply to Heide Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: