Making Track Changes less scary

by Claire Niven


Does the thought of opening a tracked changes document fill you with fear? You are not alone. We’ve all recoiled in horror at all that red scribble, and your carefully crafted words crossed through with little regard for niceties.

It can be tough seeing your work under the grammar microscope, so here are some simple ways to make the process less painful.  

Change the colour

If Microsoft Word’s default red reminds you of a teacher’s marker pen, then a soothing green or a calming blue might be easier on the eye. (Even when the comments are positive!)

To change the setting, click on the arrow at the bottom right of the tracking ribbon. Select advance options and then select your preferred colour in markup section. No more red-pen anxiety!

Switch to simple markup

You can change the type of markup you wish to see. Choose from no markup, simple markup or all markup. You can also turn off the review pane if it is too distracting.

Accepting or rejecting changes

You wrote the words, and you can decide if you want to change them or not. You must actively choose to accept or reject the changes made by a copy editor.

You can scroll through each change individually using the previous and next buttons, or you can accept or reject all changes in one go. The power is in your hands.

Work with a copy editor who phrases queries respectfully

The relationship between you and your copy editor should be collaborative. If you feel you are being criticised or belittled, then find someone else to work with. Feedback should be constructive and considered, not sneering.

Always ask if you want to know why a particular change was made. Most editors don’t give a reason for every edit, but they are happy to explain.  

Remember that it often looks worse than it is

One of the reasons Track Changes is such a fantastic tool is that it highlights every change, from a missing comma to a deleted section. A simple sentence structure change can look like double the amount of red because it will show up twice as a deletion and an insertion.

Editors can make some routine changes silently, without tracking. This can help declutter the document.

Lastly, you are not being told off! The editing process is a second pair of eyes to help to tighten and improve your writing.

For tracking changes to improve your English,

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