When you work with an editor on your book, you’ll need to know how to see edits in Word documents. You’ll want to be able to read the comments they left for you, find the parts you need to look at quickly, and accept or reject edits. For that you need to be able to use the comments, bookmarks and track changes functions in Word.
If you trust your editor such that you’re happy to hand your manuscript over to them and accept whatever they do, then you can dispense with learning about track changes, but you will need to know how to use bookmarks and read comments.
Editors leave comments in a manuscript so they can relate their points to a specific part of the book. I leave comments for my authors for two reasons:
- To educate them by explaining why I’ve done something;
- To indicate where there is an issue we need to resolve or something I need them to check. I also bookmark comments in this category so the author can find them easily.
If you don’t see any comments on the manuscript an editor has returned to you, simply go to the Review menu and click Show Comments.
The Previous and Next buttons will take you to the last or the next comment to save you having to scroll through the document to find them. The arrow in the Show Comments box allows you to choose Contextual or List to display them. I recommend the Contextual setting.
If Show Comments is greyed out, make sure track changes (see below) is set to show Simple Markup or All Markup.
This is the first tool for being able to see edits in Word documents.
My editing process involves leaving bookmarks for the author so they can easily find places in the document where I’ve asked them to check or add something or where there is some issue to resolve. My authors need to know how to read the bookmarks I leave for them. It’s quite simple, just go to the Insert menu and click on Bookmarks. A box comes up, then you select the bookmark and click on the Go To button.
Adding a bookmark:
If you change something after the edit that your editor needs to check, then it’s best to leave a bookmark for them so they can find it easily.
Just put your curser in the spot you need to bookmark. Click on Bookmark in the insert menu, as above, give your bookmark a name (recheck1, recheck2 etc) then click Add.
This is the second handy tool if you want to see edits in Word documents.
The main tool that enables you to see edits in Word documents is the track changes function. Track changes controls can be found in the Review menu. You can set how you want to view the document by choosing Simple Markup, All Markup, No Markup or Original.
The Original setting shows you the original document without any changes. This setting won’t let you see edits in Word documents, so if you can’t see any comments or red marks, this setting in Track Changes will be why. You’ll need to change it to Simple Markup.
When set to No Markup you will be able to read the finished manuscript without it showing what the editor changed.
This is the easiest and least confusing way to check your manuscript. You can read it through without clutter, stop only if you find something you don’t like, and then use the other controls to see what the editor did there. Once you’ve reviewed the actual edit, then you can make a decision about what you want to do with that edit—accept, reject it or rewrite it (see below).
Working this way allows you to see how the edited version sounds as you read. You’ll be able to enjoy the writing as a finished product. If you try to see what was there before and how the editor has changed it (the markups) without reading the unmarked up manuscript first, you will get bogged down in unnecessarily checking thousands of individual edits without ever getting a sense of the flow and rhythm of the edited prose.
When set to Simple Markup, you’ll see a red line on the side indicating that something has been changed. Where I have had to reformat the book into styles for easy formatting into an ebook and paperback (which is mostly the case), you’ll find these red lines all the way through the document. Other than that, you can read the manuscript without the clutter of seeing all the edit and work with it in the same way as you would with No Markup.
The most detailed way to see edits in Word documents is to set Track Changes to All Markup when you’ve got to a point where you want to see exactly what the editor has done. This will show you both what was there, (your original document) and what is there now. Deletions have a strike through. Additions don’t.
I recommend only turning on All Markup when you find something in the manuscript that doesn’t feel right to you. Then you can see what was there and how the editor changed it and then decide if you want to revert to the original (reject the edit), accept it, or rewrite it.
You can choose to show the markups inline, as in the picture above, (which can get pretty confusing) or in balloons as in the picture below. This version shows the additions in red and the deletions in the balloons on the side.
Select Balloons in the Show Markup drop-down options (the middle option in the Track Changes box on the toolbar), then choose either ‘Show Revisions in Balloons’, or ‘Show All Revisions Inline.’
The Show Markup drop-down options also allow you to choose to remove the formatting markup. Click Formatting to remove or add check mark. No checkmark means the formatting changes won’t show up. This allows you to focus on the textual changes – additions and deletions.
So now you know the options that allow you to see edits in Word documents. The next step is knowing how to accept or reject those edits.
Accepting and Rejecting edits
To the right of where you set whether you want to view the markups, you’ll find where you can accept or reject each edit. Click on the edit in All Markup view, and then click accept (to keep the edit) or reject (to return to the original). The Previous and Next buttons will take you to the next edit. You can accept or reject the change and stay where you are or accept or reject and move to the next edit.
There are two kinds of edits:
- Objective – the copy edit. These are edits to correct grammar, punctuation and spelling/word use. Don’t reject these. They are consistent with whatever conventions we’re following—US (Chicago Manual of Style) or UK style.
- Subjective – the line edit. These edits are ones where good line editors will recognise there’s a problem, but they may solve the problem in different ways. Even if you don’t like my solution and reject the edit, the original still has a problem that you need to solve. Line edits are such things as:
- Deletions due to overwriting, repetition, diversions, or lack of forward movement in the scene or overall plot;
- Shifting the order of sentences and paragraphs to keep a logical flow of ideas;
- Restructuring or rewriting sentences for better prose, clearer communication or consistency with the way a character would talk.
The arrow below Accept gives you the option to Accept All, so once you’ve checked a few edits, if you’re pretty sure you’ll like everything else, you don’t have to go through them all individually.
Often, I alter something because the original is clunky or not clearly expressed, but my suggestion may not be something the author likes, in which case, rather than return to the original, it’s best to write an alternative to the editor’s fix. That way the result of the process will still be better than the original. In this case, you’ll need to either accept or reject the edit and then change what you want.
When you’re happy with the manuscript, Accept All edits to clean up the document ready for proofreading. You can delete all comments you don’t want to leave for the proofreader, by clicking the arrow on the Delete Comments button.
More on track changes for the latest versions of word here: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/track-changes-in-word-197ba630-0f5f-4a8e-9a77-3712475e806a