Power to the Writer: How to Use Track Changes in Word

When I edit a paper, I always use Microsoft Word’s track changes function. The track changes function marks all of the changes that I make to the paper. It keeps a record of the original version of the paper while also marking the new revisions.

Why do I use track changes?

The biggest reason is, simply, that I’m not the writer. I don’t get final say over the paper. When I edit grants or educational publications, track changes is how I hand the power over to the writer. The writer can review the changes that I’ve made and make sure that I haven’t messed up their intended meaning. When editing dissertations and theses, the reason is more serious: I don’t want there to be any suspicion of plagiarism. Track changes allows me to make suggestions—albeit very direct suggestions—without taking control of the paper. I want all of my clients to be able to tell their professors that they’re working with an editor without worrying about their academic integrity.

How do you use track changes?

Admittedly, the track changes function does add an extra step for the writer. After receiving an edited paper from me, you’ll need to review all of the suggested changes. First, change from “Simple Markup” to “All Markup.” (Note that your bar may look different if you’re using a Mac instead of a PC.) By choosing “All Markup,” you’ll be able to see the original and the revised versions side-by-side. You’ll also be able to see all of the formatting changes that I’ve made.
Choose "All Markup." This lets you see the original and the revised text.
Then, use the previous and next buttons to move through the changes. It’s much easier to use these buttons for navigation instead of trying to click on each change because sometimes the changes get convoluted.
Use the previous and next buttons to navigate through the changes.
Every time you come to a change, choose to accept or reject it. Remember: it’s okay to reject it! If the change differs from your original meaning or doesn’t match your usual tone, don’t go with it. It is your paper.
Click "accept" or "reject." You get the final say!
Finally, check that you’ve caught all of the changes by looking for these vertical bars in the lefthand margins. These red bars mean that I’ve suggested a change at that spot in the document. If you don’t see the change, place your cursor in the vicinity of the vertical line and use the previous/next buttons to find the change.
Look for the vertical bar to make sure that you've seen all the changes.

That’s it! Now the paper is yours. You wrote it, AND you got the last word about all of the words in your writing. 

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