The Parable of the Unchanged Manuscript: How to Demoralize Your Editor in One Easy Lesson

Some weeks ago I got a manuscript back from an author. It was already “late” due to the author’s professional activities, although both the publisher and I, the editor on the project, were aware that we’d be compressing the schedule. Because the manuscript was in such excellent shape when it came to me, I’d gone ahead and copyedited it, knowing I’d have a short, short window to clean up the book and return it to the publisher by the already extended due date. I had a plan, and I was working it. (Don’t try this at home, kids; I’m a professional.)

Famous last words.

The manuscript arrived at 8:30pm of the day it was due. Eagerly, I opened the file—and within seconds found myself considering the least painful method by which to kill myself.

You see, the author (who has published multiple books and thus been through the editorial process before) failed to use track changes to make additions (and/or deletions) to the manuscript. (Yes, I’d also discussed this procedure with said author. In detail.) Now I had no way of knowing what changes had been made, or where, and would have to read the entire manuscript again.

Naturally, I did what any good editor does in this situation: I cried. Then I asked my Facebook friends about the above-mentioned methods for a painless suicide. It was suggested to me that I use Word’s “compare documents” function (which won’t actually kill you, I hasten to point out); when I tried that, nothing happened. (What I should have done, of course, is return the file to the author and request one with track changes turned on. However, for various political reasons, I did not. When I’m less stressed about this, I’ll call the author and we’ll have a laugh about it. Emphasis on laugh.)

But here’s what I want you to learn from this tale of woe: when you’ve begun working with your editor, no changes should be made by either party without using track changes. You are sharing one manuscript between you, and each of you must be able to see what the other is doing. (Yes, you might forget sometimes—for a chapter, maybe. No prob.) Failure to turn on track changes for a whole manuscript is unprofessional and it’s disrespectful.

Also, it’s very easy. Go to view > toolbars > reviewing. Now click on the “track changes” button. Done.

Tweet: How to demoralize your editor in one easy lesson!
Tweet: Learn how to use track changes NOW. Please.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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3 Comments

  1. […] I cannot track your changes after the fact. If you didn’t do it, it didn’t get […]

  2. […] I want you to learn how to use track changes. I have a little homemade tutorial.  You’re going to love it. Honest. […]

  3. hi. I may be asking too many favors from you but can you let me know which software are we talking here for writing? I mean tracking options and all? thanks in Advance.. Just pardon me in advance I know I have habit of asking lots of questions (Mostly when it is getting for free :) )

    • Jamie says:

      It’s no problem! I can see I wasn’t clear. In the United States all publishers use Microsoft Word.

  4. Well I am using microsoft word 2007.. Ya I got it .. i found that in Review option … Thanks

  5. […] written about using track changes before (here and here, for example), but I know from experience that a lot of folks don’t really know how to […]

3 Trackbacks

  1. By If You Want to Run With the Big Dogs … on 31 January, 2012 at 8:19 am

    […] I cannot track your changes after the fact. If you didn’t do it, it didn’t get […]

  2. By Formatting Your Manuscript for Your Editor on 30 July, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    […] I want you to learn how to use track changes. I have a little homemade tutorial.  You’re going to love it. Honest. […]

  3. By “Track Changes” Is Your Friend. Mine Too. on 15 February, 2013 at 8:30 am

    […] written about using track changes before (here and here, for example), but I know from experience that a lot of folks don’t really know how to […]