You may be surprised to learn that I still proofread manuscripts like this:
When you send me your ebook, magazine, or newsletter, the first thing I do is edit and proofread it on my computer screen. I use the power of Word’s imperfect grammar and spelling checkers plus my own professional judgment to get things started. Also, if there’s heavy rewording and reworking to be done, Word’s cut-and-paste is so much easier than the pen and paper methods I used for so many years.
But when I think it’s perfect, it’s not. I print it, stick it on my clipboard, see what I missed, and mark it up. Doing the work in this sequence ensures that the printout won’t be too messy after I attack it with my editorial pen.
But how do I get all this information into your document in a format that you can easily understand? As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Microsoft Word has a Tracking feature that I love enough to blog about.
The editor clicks a menu option in Word to turn Tracking on. Then, every time he suggests a change, deletions are marked out with a red line and insertions are created in red. Later, a different person (the author) can review the suggested change and click Accept, Reject, or Ignore. (Ignore is useful if he wants to ask the editor “Why did you do that?” before making a decision.)
One of my customers said, “I don’t want to edit my editor.” That’s fine. The author’s always right, and for him I did not use Tracking. A doctor in Thailand told me that he looks at all that red, concludes that it’s a good edit, then clicks the “Accept All” function instead of reviewing them one by one (or at all). That works too. When I’m the author, though, my editor changes nothing without my knowledge and approval, and Tracking is how we ensure I’m informed.
Do note the example of the doctor in Thailand. As you are editing, you want to do it in such a way that, once the author has clicked Accept or Reject to every single suggestion, it’s ready to publish. If he clicks Accept All, it’s ready to publish. If he clicks Reject All, it’s ready to publish.
Don’t manually highlight your changes, because then the author has to review your suggestion, make a decision, click Reject or Accept, and then clean up your font color or yellow background or whatever else you did. Use the computer, don’t fight with it. Let Tracking do the work.
(The preceding paragraph was inspired by an editor who no longer edits my novels.)
A related feature is Comments. Think of them as sticky notes. There are things you can address in the document itself, things you can ask the author about by email or phone call, and then other stuff you’d rather just draw their attention to with a Comment. The author reads your Comment, does what needs doing, and deletes the Comment. I don’t use them often, but when I do, I warn the author that there are Comments in there. We don’t want the document being printed or going to a formatter with them.
The above screenshot may make you wonder how readable that is to you as the editor. Make enough suggested changes and it’s illegible. But fear not. You can toggle between seeing the manuscript with markup and without markup. That’s not the same as Accept and Reject; it’s just a way to change the view so you can see what’s going on.
If you select Review in Word, you’ll see the menu bar above.
- Changes (on the right in the screen shot but closer to the middle in real life) is how you Accept and Reject changes. The little arrows below the words Accept and Reject mean that you can click those for additional menus, including the Accept All and Reject All options.
- Tracking is how you turn the feature on and off, and change what you’re seeing on the screen without actually Accepting or Rejecting suggested changes.
- Comments is how editor and author can discuss stuff without putting that conversation into the manuscript itself. When a document has Comments in it, Delete won’t be in gray, and the little arrow will lead to a menu including the Delete All Comments option. Always do that before you publish.
Older versions of Word won’t have that particular menu, but the concepts will be the same. Right-clicking should bring up a menu with some Tracking options in it.