Track Changes How-To Guide

Track Changes How-To Guide for Collaboration during Editing and Proofreading of Manuscripts

Your editor creates suggestions (insertions or deletions) and comment boxes to prompt revisions the author should make to polish your written word so it is clear and concise while preserving your creative voice. Using the Track Changes tool properly to effectively communicate with your editor will ensure the resulting work is the best it can be. Editing is a collaborative process and these tools enable you to collaborate efficiently and effectively.

Let’s look at the document tool bar at the top:


There are different versions of Word on the market and sometimes you and your editor may not be using the same version. That’s okay. Your editor will know what to do. This guide is based on Microsoft 1997-2003. If you have a different version and any of these images don’t quite match, tell your editor and they can help you find images that are specific to your version.

Review Tab – Location of Track Changes Features


On the REVIEW TAB, clicking on Track Changes activates or turns off the feature that causes insertions and deletions to be tracked in red pen. Insertions will appear in red with an underline and deletions will be red with a strike through line. (You have color settings and might see blue or purple or green instead of red–Word changes the color for each user so they differ and you can access color settings by clicking the little arrow in the lower right corner of the Tracking section on the Review toolbar.)

Your editor will work with this feature activated and you should work with it turned off. You want to eliminate red pen work, not add more. Your editor will use document compare to see your changes when that is needed.

Next, the settings that are important to viewing and resolving revisions….

Track Changes Points of View


The first drop down box offers settings that change the view of the markup in your document. All Markup shows all the inline suggestions and comment boxes, the Tracked Changes being open and on full display. Simple Markup lets you read as if you’ve accepted everything that was suggested without actually accepting anything yet. View a page with editing markup using the two options to understand this setting, then always work in All Markup mode so you are sure to consider all suggestions and be able to clear them.

Toggling between the two views can be helpful in sorting out what your editor is showing you. One change to a sentence can be comprised of multiple suggestions where two or three clicks of the Accept button will be needed. Punctuation revisions can be hard to see. Use Simple Markup view to determine what your editor is showing you, then back to All Markup to affect your decisions.

This is what your MS would resemble with suggestions recorded in Track Changes. 

Notice strike-throughs, underlines, comments indicated by highlighting, and the revisions bar on the side.


Click on Accept or Reject to clear each suggestion from the editor. When you send the document back to the editor for the next step, it should have no remaining suggestions other than those you didn’t want to accept and have placed comments with.

• When you accept words with a red line through them, you are applying the change that those words be deleted.

• If you accept a string of words with a red line under them, you are adding the new words to the document.

• Suggestions, insertions, and deletions are made for a reason. Any time you reject a suggestion, make a New Comment to discuss it with the editor so they can make a different suggestion and address the problem they found in a way that suits your preferences.

Comments are a way to have dialogue while indicating the specific content your dialogue relates to.

• You can add a new comment by selecting the text you wish it to be connected to and clicking the New Comment button. Then just type your note.

• You can click inside an existing comment and type your reply. This is especially effective if the editor’s note is a question–just type the answer right after the question in the existing comment. Responding to the editor’s comments helps them get the answers they need to work the material while preserving your voice, writing style, fantasy elements of the story, etc. and keeps problem areas noticed until a suggestion can be provided that you agree with. Note that most questions asked by the editor are really prompting you to do a revision in the content that they could not do for lack of enough information, especially in creative areas. (We can’t decide what color hair your characters have, for example. You should make creative decisions, and the question is likely just pointing out that the reader would be wondering the same thing if you don’t make a revision in the content.) When you don’t know or aren’t sure how to address a question with revisions, answer the question in the comment box and let us know you need a little help fixing it in the content.

You can focus on comments by using the Previous and Next buttons to scroll through them, or choose to work them as they come up in between suggestions. The Reviewing Pane shows a list of suggestions and comments in order as they were created and allows you to click on them to navigate directly to them in the document. This pane can be a drag on your Word program, so we do recommend not having that activated. Viewing the editing work will actually make more sense on the page than in this pane, too.

Once you have cleared the suggestions, answered questions, and/or added your thoughts to comments, you are ready to save the file and send it back to the editor for the next steps in the process. Depending on the work your editor agreed to do for you, multiple passes will be necessary for them to address everything. Always update the name of the file to indicate the progress and the owner of the work accomplished in that pass. Your editor will start the process with a document naming format that looks like:

Book Title by Author Name_Line Edit by DLH-date

Download that version sent by the editor and then create a copy that you name Book Title by Author Name_Line Edit review by author initials-date, effectively creating a version for each step of editing in case you ever wanted to go back and see something done in an earlier edit at any point. Once you reach design, just delete the older versions since your editor will have provided you with a final master copy by then.

By both parties using the tools with the same methods and understanding, the work can be focused on editing and proofreading tasks and more effective in what it accomplishes to make your manuscript clear and concise and error free. As an author, the primary tool of your trade is Word, and understanding how to use all of its features will help you be a more professional writer.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~>Debra L Hartmann, Author and Managing Editor at &

5 thoughts on “Track Changes How-To Guide

  1. I have used Track Changes in the past but there are a couple of wee details I haven’t used and this guide has cleared this up for me. Very helpful.
    Thank you.


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