The Best Stuff Is in the Margin

We’ve just been talking about using track changes to work with your editor. There’s another tool you can use to communicate with your editor—the margin note—and as simple and obvious as it seems to me, I often spend a lot of time explaining how to respond to margin comments. So let’s talk about that.

You can ask questions, answer questions, make observations, and so on by using the INSERT COMMENT tool. (INSERT menu > COMMENT.) But it’s easier doing it from the reviewing toolbar. If you’re using track changes (and you are!) you’ve already pulled up this toolbar, but just in case, let’s review.

Again, the checklist. I work on a Mac, so PC users may have a slightly different way of getting here.

• Your page view should be PRINT LAYOUT (which is under the VIEW menu). Load the reviewing toolbar by choosing VIEW menu, scrolling to TOOLBARS, then scrolling again to REVIEWING.

• The NEW COMMENT button is just to the left of the TRACK CHANGES button.

• Select the paragraph or sentence or word you want to comment on, then click NEW COMMENT. A comment balloon will appear in the right-hand margin. Click inside it and type away.

If you just got editorial notes from me, you’ll see plenty of comments in the margins. (I have them set to appear yellow, so they are easily distinguishable from deleted material.) Sometimes I might say, “I love this line.” Sometimes it might be, “This is where the timeline starts to get off track.” Or I might ask a question: “Does she know these people?” or “What if they argue about it instead of just discussing it?” Sometimes the comments are short, sometimes they’re long.

Here’s what I want you to do with them:

• If I’ve asked a question, answer it. You can click right in my note and leave your answer there, or you can create your own comment. Please leave my comment there, because I won’t remember what question you’re answering otherwise.

• If you want to respond at all to something I’ve said, please do.

• If you have a question, create a note and ask it. I’ll answer on the next pass. When I answer your comments, I usually type in all caps so you can easily see I’ve responded.

• If you are rejecting a change I made, please leave me a comment to say why.

• If you’ve read the comment and it needs no response, feel free to click the X in the right-hand corner and delete it.

Remember also that I keep a separate copy of every iteration of the manuscript, so nothing is ever lost, even if you delete something by accident. (And there’s always command-z.)

I’ve had some wonderful, hilarious conversations in the margins of manuscripts. And a lot of work gets done in the margins too. If there’s a little one-off issue that needs tweaking, you’ll see it in the margin and it will never make it into the editorial notes. So read them all. The best stuff, I think, is in the margins. :)

Tweet: There’s another tool you can use to communicate with your editor—the margin note.
Tweet: If you just got editorial notes from me, you’ll see plenty of comments in the margins.

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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11 Comments

  1. Michelle Ule says:

    Your wit shines in the comments!

  2. jeel says:

    i never knew about all this stuff… i only used ms word for my school project printouts or well, for my book. and now i know i can do awesome stuff with it. thanks a lot.

  3. It’s nice to know what an editor expects. Thanks for sharing….editing is sure a LOT of work!! Have a tea-riffic weekend!

  4. Mari Adkins says:

    On a PC you can push CTRL-ALT-M to place a comment, which I’ve found very handy! (in fact, it’s something I learned looking up some things after reading your post about track changes the other day)

  5. Jaye Bright says:

    One of my crit partners has conversations with my characters in the comment box. She has me in stitches as I go through her crit.

  6. […] no. I don’t mean passing notes. (Or margin notes; I’ve already talked about those.) You’ve probably called them footnotes—you see these mostly in scholarly works—or endnotes, […]

One Trackback

  1. By Let’s Talk About Notes on 9 December, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    […] no. I don’t mean passing notes. (Or margin notes; I’ve already talked about those.) You’ve probably called them footnotes—you see these mostly in scholarly works—or endnotes, […]

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