Short Saturday: Track Changes From A to Z

Yes, a while back, I wrote an article with some basics about track changes. We’ve also talked about why you need to use MS Word when you’re working with an editor, not Apple Pages. (Calm down, Mac users; I’ll establish my bona fides. To wit: I bought my first Mac in 1990 and have never, ever looked back. But MS Word is what we use in the book biz. It’s just the right tool for the job.)

So. Track changes.

As a professional communicator, I am well aware that not everyone in my audience may understand me. And that’s cool. I’m always on the lookout for a new way to convey the information you need.

Here’s one I found a few months ago: a three-part series on track changes from Write Divas. Yes, friends. If you want to get serious with track changes, this is your moment! With “The Basics,” author Janine Savage notes why it’s wonderful—

It allows collaborators to make changes to a document while preserving the original until a change is made permanent. The best part is that each collaborator’s revisions and comments are tracked separately and appear in a different color. What this means for authors is that all changes you, your editor, your proofreader, your beta reader, your pre-reader, your mom, or anyone else other person who has something to add to your manuscript are tracked in a different color.

—and starts you off at turning on track changes.

In “Intermediate,” Savage covers things you’ve seen on the menu bar but didn’t know what they were, like changing the view, setting or changing a user name, and more—even cutting and pasting documents with changes tracked:

At some point you may need to copy a section, chapter, or entire document with tracked changes from one document to another while keeping all the tracking and comments as is. Use this only if you don’t want to track the actual insertion of material with tracked elements.

  1. Turn off Track Changes in both documents you will be working with.
  2. Highlight the text with tracked changes you want to copy.
  3. Paste it to the other document.

The tracked changes and comments should copy to the new document.

The final installment, “Advanced,” teaches you to tweak features so that they work best for you. (And remember, you can always command-Z.) There’s lots of good stuff here!

So go get that cup of tea, settle down, and play with track changes. You’ll be really glad you did!

Tweet: MS Word is what we use in the book biz.
Tweet: Let’s learn how to use track changes—it’s what the pros use.

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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  1. Sacha black says:

    So I already knew this about you – the whole using track changes thing. And I like it. A LOT. Besides the fact everything you said makes sense….

    From a selfish newbie writers point of view, it means I can learn quickly and easily. You track, it’s highlighted, I can see my mistakes. I change them and hopefully don’t make them again. Boom. everyone’s a winner.


    Another editor happened to really piss me off the other day. They wrote on a post of mine about editing, abe said they didn’t track changes. They didn’t have time, and weren’t in the business to help authors learn they were there to make money.

    Know what I learnt from that? Pick your editor wisely. I know who I’d choose every time.

    • Jamie Chavez says:

      Oh gosh—that’s unprofessional! It’s a RULE. All parties must be able to see the changes made.

      I learn as much from tracking changes as the author, but it does warm my heart to hear you say you actually LOOK at them. I think a lot of people just accept them and move on without the learning phase. Sometimes I want to say, “Just glance down that right hand column and look at all those THATs I took out!” (Or whatever.) :)

      Thanks for your kind words. :)

      • Sacha Black says:

        You mean people don’t look at them? Thats ridiculous. What’s the point of having an editor if you’re not going to look at and understand the changes. I can’t understand people that don’t want to learn and grow. It annoys me and is half the reason the market is littered with shit. UGH.