How to Deal with Tracked Changes

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.

What to Expect from the Editorial Process

copy editor looking at a book


You’ve written your book (or your business documentation), done all your groundwork, sorted out your budget and found an editor you’d like to work with.

So what happens next? What can you expect from working with an editor?

question mark

Every editor is different. Just as there are different types of editing, there are different ways of approaching an edit, but generally the process will remain the same.

Let’s break it down into stages …

  1. You’ve approached your editor, made sure your manuscript is ready, given them a sample of your work, a budget has been agreed and the type of editing has been agreed upon.
  2. Next you will have to book your work into their schedule. Never expect that as soon as you are ready to go your editor will have space for you. Depending on the scope of the edit you may have to wait a while. Generally, editors like to know that they have work scheduled, so many will have booked work a few months in advance. Expect to wait a couple of weeks to a couple of months before they can start work on your manuscript. If they work in a highly specialised field you may have to wait longer. Don’t see this as a bad thing – once you’ve found an editor who you feel you can work with, the wait will be worth it.


  3. Send all your relevant details. This includes not only the manuscript that the editor will be working on, but your preferences for style. If you are writing for a company send the editor your company’s style guide. If you are an author let the editor know if you have been using a style guide such as New Hart’s Rules or the Chicago Manual of Style, and which dictionary you prefer. If you have made your own style guide too, let your editor know. You’ll be working together to make your writing the best it can be, collaboration is key – don’t expect your editor to be a mind reader.
  4. Let the editor do their job. Once your slot has come around you may be contacted by your editor who will let you know that work will be starting. Now is the time to sit back and let them get on with it. Do not hassle them with ‘oh, by the way …’ or ‘can you just …’ or ‘when will you send …’ or ‘have you finished yet’. Editing is both an art and a science. It takes time and concentration. If your editor has questions that are important to the flow of the job they will contact you. Just sit back and wait. Patience is a virtue.

    copy editor

  5. Review the document. If you’ve spoken to your editor you should know how they work on your manuscript and how many passes or rounds of editing are involved. The terminology can be loose, but generally a pass means how many times your editor has gone through your manuscript, a round can mean how many times it goes between editor and author. For example, when I edit your work I will generally carry out two passes in one round of editing. In this example my first pass will be to look through your document for obvious layout errors, spelling mistakes, stylistic errors etc. (a fairly mechanical process). My second pass will be where the majority of work is carried out: the nitty gritty editorial process using Word’s tracked changes. The document will then be returned to you for review and any queries and comments will be addressed. That round of editing is then complete. Any further rounds will require payment as a new edit.

    big tick, correct
    When you get your document back for review take your time to read it through and address any comments from the editor. You may want to just go through it yourself, thank the editor for their time and move on, or you might want to ask the editor a few questions. This is the time to do it. You are perfectly within your rights to reject any changes that have been made, but you must take into account that rejecting one change may impact on the sentence and those around it. If you really don’t like, or understand, the change this is your chance to talk it through. Remember that an editor is a trained professional, but this is your document and you must feel comfortable with the edit.

    next step in the process

  1. Move onto the next stage of your publishing process. Once you’ve reviewed the edit, and you’re happy that the document is ready, it’s now time to either move on or add another round of editing. Some people will go back and rewrite after an edit, focusing on the editors comments, while others will accept all the changes and feel that the job is done. It all depends on the type of edit carried out – a developmental edit is one at the beginning of the process, whereas after a copy-edit you should be ready for the final stages of publishing. When you’re happy, it’s time to get your manuscript ready for publication and hire a proofreader for that final look-over.

So, you see, the editorial process isn’t at all mysterious. The main thing to remember is to talk with your editor, communicate well and don’t take comments personally. It’s very easy to get protective of your work, but trust your editor, they want what’s best for you and your work.

If you would like to work with me, contact me and we can talk through your project.

10 small things that will make your document ready for an editor

editorial checklist


Let’s admit it, it’s a big step hiring an editor.

You’ve researched editors in your genre, you’ve sorted out your budget so it’s realistic and you have your manuscript in a Word document (or ten). After approaching a couple of professional editors you’ve found one you’d like to work with.

What next?

After an initial chat the editor will want to see your manuscript (or at least a few chapters) to assess it. This is how we determine how much work is actually needed, rather than how much work the client thinks is needed (hint: listen to your editor, they know how to make your manuscript work). By all means let your editor know what you want – no editor will force you to have a developmental edit if all you want is a proofread – but listen if they recommend that the manuscript isn’t ready for a final polish.

You may think the document you’ve been working on is ready to be sent, but is it? Is it really?

A few quick polishes will make sure that the editor will see your manuscript in a good light and you’re more likely to land the editor you want to work with.

editing and proofreading checklist


Here are ten small things that will make your document ready for an editor:

  1. Sort out your margins. It’s fairly standard to have one inch (2.54 cm) margins all round.
  2. Set your line spacing to double spaced (2.0). It may look too spaced out, but the aim here is to have your document as easy to read as possible. If your editor wants to print out pages to work on, the generous margins and line spacing will give them space to make any notes they need without having to squish them in.
  3. Ditch the fancy fonts. Ditch them. Use a standard 12pt font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Courier or Calibri. Yes, they can look boring, but the aim is to have a readable document. When you publish your book your designer will help you find a suitable font that takes into account subject, publication type and audience – until then just have a nice, clean readable file. No editor wants a manuscript sent to them in Comic Sans, or any other fancy font. I’ve had my share of these ‘fun’ documents, and believe me, you’ll just give your editor more work to get the document into a useable form, and you will be charged for it.

If you follow steps 1–3, this should get you to roughly 250 words per page, which is how many editors see a standard page. Setting your page out this way makes it easier to read, your editor won’t need to alter anything and it’s how many publishers prefer their manuscripts to be laid out.


  1. Add page numbers. This will make it easier for your editor to make comments and to track where they are in the edit. A simple number in the footer, bottom right, or in the header, top right, will suffice.
  2. Add a header which includes at least your name and the book title. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s good practice and can let your editor see exactly what they are working on at any time.
  3. Set out your document using Styles. It’s a fairly quick and painless way to make your document look professional. I’ve written out some instructions to guide you through the process. It’s not complicated and it will make your document setup easier to navigate if anything structural needs changing. Remember to make your paragraphs indented using Styles rather than using the tab key and don’t add any unnecessary returns.

    Do Not Copy watermark

    Remove watermarks – they show lack of trust

  4. Make sure there are no watermarks on your document. Trying to work on a document that has been watermarked is extremely difficult and totally unnecessary. If your editor gets a watermarked document the chances are they’ll return it for watermark removal, or they may even refuse to work on it at all. The relationship between author and editor is based on trust and if you show that you don’t trust your editorial professional they may decide the relationship won’t work. If you use a professional editor, who is a member of a professional organisation such as the SfEP, they are bound by the society’s professional code of conduct. A professional editor will never breach your copyright.
  5. Decide on a style guide. This could be something as simple as using as your preferred dictionary, to more complex decisions such as letting your editor know you prefer to use New Hart’s Rules as a basis for your style guide. Style guides are important to allow your editor to follow your preferences, so deciding on one at the beginning will save you both time. If you’re not sure, ask your editor for advice.
  6. Run the whole manuscript through a spell check. The final step before sending your document is to check your spelling.
  7. Read your manuscript through one last time to make sure everything is as you want it to be. Really read it, don’t just skim. Once your editor starts work, this is the document they will be using so a final check is essential.


If you follow these ten quick steps you’ll have a document that looks as good as it (hopefully) reads. A good presentation shows that you value all the work you’ve put into your manuscript and it will send the right signs to your editor.

Not sure how to carry out the changes? That’s OK, don’t fret – I wrote a blog post especially to help you with that.

Think I’m the right editor for you? Contact me and we can talk through your project.