Technical Editing:
Techniques for Commenting Online

Another essential tool for editing online is the ability to comment online—in other words, making comments right within the electronic version of a document. Commenting online is an important tool in your online-editing repertoire: it enables you to query writers and make substantive editorial comments. For example, if a document has organization problems, as editor you can use the comment function to explain the problem and recommend a solution. You'll see how this works in Microsoft Word.

Note: This tutorial works through Word 2003. If you are using Word 2007 or later, you will notice some differences. Get in touch if you need help.

Imagine you come across the following paragraph in a discussion of computer methods of encrypting information:

With the advent of the Internet, the use of symmetric cryptography proved to be an even greater liability because sender and receiver often never met or even knew each other. As is often the case, revolutionary technology such as the Internet often forces expansion of existing technologies. Public key cryptography, introduced in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman, was developed to accommodate the tremendous risks inherent in any Internet transmission, risks that symmetric cryptography couldn't overcome. Unlike symmetric cryptography, public key cryptography uses two keys, one public and one private. The private key never has to leave the owner while the public key can be made public so everyone can have access to it. The risks of safeguarding a highly secret key during distribution to users disappears, making public key cryptography ideally suited for the Internet, large distributed systems, and big corporate networks.

As editor, you can't understand from this discussion how the public and private keys solve the problem. The writer moves on to other aspects of encryption, leaving this one unexplained. You decide you need to make a substantive editorial comment here. Here's how:

  1. In Word, display the Reviewing toolbar: click View > Toolbars > Reviewing.
  2. Position the cursor in the document at the point at which you want to make the comment. Click the Insert Comment button.
  3. Type your comments just after your bracketed initials. If you want to change your initials, close the current comment box and delete it. Click Tools > Options > User Information. You'll find your name (or somebody's) and initials there.
  4. When you complete your comments, just press Close in the comments dialog box. The text near where you located the cursor will be highlighted.

    Note: The default highlighting is yellow, but you can use the Highlight button to change to another color. If you work in a team of reviewers, it's useful for individual reviewers to have their own color.
  5. To read comments, move your mouse pointer over some highlighted text. The pointer should turn into an icon depicting an envelope with one corner turned up. In a second or two, you'll see the comment pop up prefaced by the name of the commentor.
  6. Note: If the comment does not pop up, try this: click Tools > Options > View, and then put a check mark next to Screen Tips.

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