My Friend: Track Changes

When I first started working as a writing intern in college, my knowledge of Microsoft Word was pretty much ‘word processor’ and ‘an improvement from WordPerfect’. (Sorry, WordPerfect – you were on my parents’ computer too long for my taste.) Still, if I wanted to edit something, I’d print out the copy I needed, pull out my handy dandy red pen and limited knowledge of proofreader’s marks and go to town.

Then, my boss showed me Track Changes. And life was never the same.

Track Changes allows you to edit a word document in a non-destructive way. All your words are still there, and you can choose to keep or reject whatever edits were made to the document. And, for the nostalgic, it still has that look like your middle school literature teacher slashed it to pieces with the Red Pen of Doom.

Here’s a little primer on Track Changes. First, get yourself a word doc to edit:

A word document.

Nice to meet you. I’m a word doc.

Then, open up the Review tab, located between Mailings and View.

review pane

The Review Pane in Microsoft Word.

If you haven’t opened up this tab before, it looks a lot of new buttons to take in, but it’s not that bad. Just focus in on the Track Changes icon toward the middle of the pane, and click on it to turn it on.

track changes icon

Track Changes is on and ready for editing, Captain.

And now, you can edit your document. You can get REALLY crazy with it too.

edited text

It’s getting all Christmas-y up in this word doc, yo.

If you remove text, it will (usually) color it red (it can vary between how many people could be editing the doc) and strike it through. New inserted text will be given the same color and underlined. If you decide to move a line of text, it will give it a separate color from your other changes, double-strike it through, and double underline the text in its new location.

Accept and Reject icons

You pick the red button, and all of this goes away. You pick the blue button, and I’ll show you how deep the rabbit hole goes…

Once your word doc is all marked up, you can go through and Accept or Reject the edits that were made to it (though I recommend saving it out to a new file before you do this – having backups is mucho important – just in case you want to reference changes later.) Choose, but choose wisely.

So, first blog post officially complete! I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful. I’ll be back with more funness soon!

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