What is “Track Changes” and How Do I Use It?

One of the terms you will undoubtedly come across as a new freelancer, especially if you intend to use a proofreading service where the proofreading goes beyond checking merely for typos and grammatical errors (where the contractor wants you to edit so it is clearer, flows better etc), is “Must know how to use Track Changes

I’d heard of it but never used it. As a fiction writer, I haven’t felt the need to track changes I’d made to a document. Or at least, if I’d decided I didn’t like a passage enough to remove it I’d never felt the inclination to keep the older version as a comparison and if I still didn’t like it I’d keep writing it until I did like it!

What is it?

It is a tool that permits you to show all changes you have made to a Word document. Deleted areas of text are struck through and added areas of text are put in in a different colour. This permits multiple people to work on the same document and look at all edits and compare for which is preferential. This is an essential tool for proofreaders when you are editing somebody else’s work and they wish to compare yours with theirs or those edits of multiple people.

How does it work?

It might sound complicated to have multiple people working on the same document but the colour coding and deletions and other options that you might tailor the system to keep a better eye on changes all leads to a useful method of adopting or removing those changes: the option to accept and reject individual changes. That way, if Bob gets the final say on a document that Mike wrote that was then sent to Philip and Peter for proofreading, he can accept any individual edit over any other, even reject both of Philip and Peter’s edits and go with Mike’s original text. In the next paragraph he might prefer Philip’s wording and so on…

Here is a practical demonstration, I feel they always work better when somebody shows you. Total running time of the videos is under 15 mins:

Part 1

Part 2

2 thoughts on “What is “Track Changes” and How Do I Use It?

  1. tmso

    Having worked in an office setting since I left college, I am intimately familiar with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes. I love it. I don’t use it for my fictional writing (as when I’m drafting or re-writing), but when editing or collaborating – it is a must.

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