Microsoft Word is the standard software used for editing, and Track Changes is one of its most useful features: it shows amendments that have been made to a Word document and allows other people to accept or reject these changes.
When I’m editing for a client – whether that’s an academic author, a government body, a business, an organisation, or an individual – my focus is on making it easy for them to see the amendments I have made to their material. Track Changes is the ideal way to do that. I can also add queries or explanations using the Comments function.
There are a few things an editor can do to make it easier for a client to read a document when Track Changes have been used. First, it’s worth considering whether every change needs to be tracked. For example, will the author need to know that you’ve changed the proofing language? If you select all the text and change the language with Track Changes on, this will add a ‘Formatted: [language]’ mark-up every time you make any sort of correction to the text from then on (see left). So you may decide to make this a ‘silent’ change – one that’s made with Track Changes turned off.
Another correction that can usually be left untracked is changing double spaces (between words or sentences) to single spaces. The same goes for any unnecessary spaces that occur at the end of a line or paragraph, or within the cells of a table. Changes to the overall formatting – the font size, the line spacing, the paragraph style – are often best left untracked. If it’s important for the author to know that you’ve made any of these untracked changes, you can add a Comment at the start of the document or mention it in the covering email when you return the work.
When it comes to sending the edited document back to the client, there are various steps you can take to help with readability and clarity. I usually send two versions of the document:
If the client wants to look at all my amendments – apart from the ones I’ve made ‘silently’ – the Tracked document gives them the full picture. The client can go through the document line by line and accept or reject each change at the touch of a button. The points raised in the Comments can also be considered along the way.
Alternatively, if the client prefers to read the end result and is not overly concerned with each amendment, the Final version is available. The document can be read without the distraction of coloured lines and corrections, and the Comments are still visible, so any queries or explanations are there for the client to see.
Rather than peruse the Final version, the client could, of course, simply use the Tracked version and choose to view the document with ‘No Markup’ (one of the viewing options on the Tracking section of the Review tab). This would look the same as the Final version and would enable the client to quickly view, accept or reject the corrections by toggling from ‘No Markup’ to ‘Full Markup’.
But I’ve found that clients appreciate having the two different versions – one with changes showing and one with changes accepted – with the Comments visible on both. Track Changes is a useful feature, but there are so many options for how the mark-up appears (and which types of correction are visible) that it pays to keep things straightforward.