Basics of Microsoft Word and Using Track Changes

For Authors and Editors

Working with Microsoft (MS) Word is an essential skill for authors, editors, writers—anyone who works with words. Although there are many web tools available today, Word is the simplest tool available. It is intuitive and allows multiple people to collaborate to put together one good document.

In this article, we will primarily be addressing the use of track changes, its features and how it benefits authors and editors of books.

Using track changes allowsyou to view changes made by multiple people on the same document. When we talk about editing a manuscript on Word, we can expect multiple people to work on it multiple times. For example,

  1. An author sends the final manuscript to a copyeditor for editing.
  2. The copyeditor works with track changes on and sends the edited manuscript back to the author for review.
  3. The author reviews the manuscript by accepting or rejecting changes made by the copyeditor and modifies the manuscript based on suggestions provided. The author too keeps track changes on so the editor can see what the author has changed.
  4. The manuscript may go back to the copyeditor who reviews and finalizes the changes made by the author. At this point, track changes will appear in 2 different colors: one with the changes made by the editor and one with the changes made by the author.
  5. Once the copyeditor is done with the manuscript, they pass it on to a proofreader. The proofreader will conduct their own check on the manuscript with track changes on. The changes that the proofreader makes will reflect in another color (different from the author’s and the copyeditor’s).
  6. The proofreader sends the reviewed manuscript back to the author. At this point, the author might see track changes in 3 different colors. These are changes made by the copyeditor, proofreader, and the author himself.

Now, if you want to check how many “reviewers” a particular document has had. All you need to do is:

Go to Review > Click Show Markup > Select Reviewers

You will see the initials of the people who have worked on the manuscript. In this case, the initials could be as such:

1. “CE” for copyeditor

2. “PF” for proofreader

3. “Name of the author” or the author’s initials or device name. (Ideally, it would be better for the author to use their initials or change the name to “author” to avoid confusion.)

Here are few settings that authors and editors can implement before they start work on an MS Word document.

The Office Button

Before you put Track Changes on, click the Office button on the top left corner of MS Word (or go to File and select Options) and choose Word Options. You will find a tab called “Popular” or “General” where you can change your username and initialsas stated above.

As an editor, you can also enable relevant languagesettingsunder “Proofing.”

Word Options > Proofing > Check “Grammar & Style” next to Writing Style.

Next to that, click “Settings” and check all the boxes under “Grammar.”

“Require” for U.S. English:

– Comma required before last item: always

–  Punctuation required with quotes: inside

– Spaces required between sentences: don’t check

“Require” for U.K. English:

– Comma required before last item: never

–  Punctuation required with quotes: don’t check

– Spaces required between sentences: 1

*Please note that the above settings are only indicative. Kindly select options that are suitable to the document that you are working on.

The Review Tab


Under the Review Tab, click on Track Changes to enable tracking. At the same time, we would suggest you do the following:

Click on the arrow on the Track Changes button> Click Change Tracking Options > Uncheck “Track Formatting”

This is extremely important when you are working with authors who are not really familiar with the editing process or the nuances of using track changes. When you track formatting, several balloons tend to appear with every small change. So many balloons can make the manuscript look cluttered. Moreover, authors might not know what to make of all these balloons reflecting formatting changes. To keep it simple and clutter-free, we suggest you don’ttrackthe formatting.

Next to Track Changes, there is Show Markup.It provides various options such as comments, insertions and deletions, etc. The ones that are ticked are the ones that you will be able to see on the document. For instance, if you uncheck comments from this list while working on the manuscript, you will not be able to see the comments even if you have placed them. If you have tracked formatting, it would be useful to uncheck formatting in this list, so you can at least avoid seeing so many formatting balloons.

Another feature under Show Markup allows you to choose how you want track changes to be displayed. Go to “balloons” and choose one of 3 options:

  • Show revisions in balloons (this means every change will be displayed as balloons)
  • Show all revisions in line (this simply means no balloons)
  • Show only comments and formatting in balloons (This means you can see all changes in running text except comments and formatting) – Recommended

You will also find a “Reviewing Pane,” which lets you view all the changes in the document in a separate window. Based on your preference, you can choose to view it vertically or horizontally. Personally, we do not like having another window open, so we do not use the reviewing pane.

Display for Review (with example screenshots)

There are 4 review options when working with track changes—original, original: show markup, final, final: show markup. Original – This is the view of the document before you made any changes to it. If you want to see how the document looked before track changes were applied to it, you should change the display to “Original.”

Original Display

2. Original: show markup – This shows the original document with any deletions, strikethroughs or comments. Often this view is unnecessary or unused as the same is displayed on final: show markup.

Original: Show Markup

3. Final: show markup – When you put track changes on, this is the default display that you get. This allows you to track the changes that you make. (Note: if you are not the first person to work on a document with track changes, you might receive the document with track changes on. This means you will be able to see others’ tracked changes on the document. If you do not want to see changes made by others, change the display to “Final.”However, remember that you must always work with track changes on (especially for editors). Also, you have to uncheck “Track Formatting” each time you work on a new document. It is not a default setting. In the below screen-shot, you will notice that 2 people have worked on the document signified by 2 different colors and that it is identical to the original: show markup view.

Final: Show Markup

4. Final: In this view, you will see that all the changes have been incorporated into the document. It is extremely important that editors use the“Final” view to check their document once they finish editing. Only in this view, will you actually see the errors you have overlooked such as spacing, spellings, and other cosmetic errors.

Final Display

Try out the above-mentioned steps in a sample document.Track changes and toggle between various display options to view the changes.



You can add comments to your manuscript where necessary. To insert a new comment, select a word/phrase and click the “New Comment” button under the Review Tab. To make it simple, select a word/phrase and use this shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+M.

If you have editors or reviewers commenting on your manuscript, you can review their comments by clicking the Previous or Next buttons next to the “New Comment” button. Address those comments with replies or add new comments as necessary.

You can also delete comments if you have addressed them. To delete a comment, left-click on it and select “delete comment.”


The Accept and Reject buttons typically allow you to accept/reject changes on a document that already has tracked changes in it. This function is quite straightforward. Once you click the arrow under accept you have options:

accept and move to next, accept change, accept all changes shown, accept all changes in document. Similarly, for reject: reject and move to next, reject change, reject all changes shown, reject all changes in document.

Now you can accept and reject changes easily using the left-click of a mouse as it might be tiresome moving to the Review Tab for every change. However, if you feel you want to accept or reject all the changes in a document, moving one-by-one and accepting or rejecting each would not be feasible. Instead, go directly to accept or reject on the Review Tab and click on “accept all changes in document” or “reject all changes in document.” An editor or proofreader typically “accepts all changes in a document” once it has been reviewed and approved by the author and all stakeholders.


This is the most overlooked but most necessary. Often editors forget to change language setting depending on whether they are editing in U.S. or U.K. English. Resultantly, they miss several spelling errors that otherwisecould have been corrected. Use the available settings to your advantage. The more errors that Word can help you spot, the better your document turns out. Please change the language before you start editing. The bottom left corner allows you to change the language or you could click on Language under the Review Tab.

The Translate button is self-explanatory.Ithelps you translate quotes or sentences in other languages.


The Word Count button shows you every statistic in a document. Use it to check the number of pages, words, paragraphs, and linesin the document. It even tells you how many characters there are (with and without spaces).

Use Thesaurus to look up words and Research to find references.

Please run a Spelling & Grammar check for every document that you work on. For editors, as soon you finish editing, you must put your document in “Final” view and run a Spelling &Grammar check.

Compare and Protect

We will not be discussing these options in detail as comparing helps to compare or combine multiple versions of the same document. This is usually not used in book editing.

It is also not necessary to Restrict Editing, which essentially protects a document with a password and/orallows people to make only certain kinds of changes. These features might be more useful for legal documents.

We hope this article has provided some useful information to readers. Please understand that this article only gives you the basics of how to handle Track Changes and use the various features under the Review Tab. There are several details that have not been discussed here. The best way to go about this is to use an old document and try out all the various options provided. There is no better way to learn than to explore and train yourself.

Another tip for editors: always submit a clean document. A clean document is one which people would like to work on, one with no spelling or spacing errors. While editors are not required to do a full formatting, going the extra mile to ensure that any errors and inconsistencies have been rectified speaks volumes about your work.

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