Techniques for Editing Online: Change Tracking

Most advanced writing software now has revision indicators. These are things like strike-throughs, underscores, sidebars, and color that indicate what has been deleted, what has been added, and so on.

Here are some example Word documents that used this process:

Notice that these files have multiple reviewers each one of which uses a different color. Word allows for up to 8 different reviewers, each one using a different color. Here is a brief tutorial on how Word (Windows 98 version) implements these revision markers.

Note: This tutorial works through Word 2003. If you are using Word 2007, you may notice some differences.

Writing Phase

First, pretend that you are a writer:

  1. Open Word and type the following and save it as onlined.doc:

    Here is a sentence with a repeated repeated word.

    Here are a sentence with an agreement error.

    Here is a sentence with missing word.
  2. Save this document. Before leaving, check who is the owner: click File > Properties. Click the Summary tab, and see who is the author.

These three examples cover all the basic possibilities: deleting text, changing text, and inserting text.

Editing Phase

Now it's time to put on your editor's hat. Word change tracking works by comparing the owner of the document to the owner of the software (click Help > About Microsoft Word to see who that is). You can act as editor of your own document, but you cannot go to that next step: you cannot review your document in a different color and preserve the review comments. Therefore, exchange your document with someone else before starting this next phase:

  1. Open the document in Word.
  2. Click on Tools, then on Track Changes, and finally on Highlight Changes. In the dialog box, check the Track changes while editing and the Highlight changes on screen boxes, and click on Okay.
  3. In the first sentence, delete the first instance of repeated. Instead of disappearing, the word becomes a red strike-through.
  4. Move to the second sentence, delete are, and type is just after. Notice that the word are becomes a red strike-through, but the word that you typed is a red underscore. Be careful not to introduce any additional spacing (which would be indicated by an underscored blank).
  5. Move to the third sentence and insert the missing a. Notice that the inserted word is a red underscore but so is the space you included either before or after that word.
  6. Word enables you to see the name of the reviewer and date of review. Move your mouse pointer over one of your corrections and expect to see a "screen tip," one of those hovering popup things. (If you don't see it, click Tools > Options and then the View tab; put a check mark in the Screen Tips box.)

Note: Word's toolbar for change tracking also provides tools for inserting comments. A tutorial for commenting is provided elsewhere.

Edit-Review Phase

In the preceding, you were wearing your editor hat and correcting the text. Now, change into your writer hat and accept or reject that editor's corrections. You should not be able to delete the editor' s corrections. Instead, your corrections of the corrections should use a different color and use the same mark-up system as the editor's. In other words, you are now just another reviewer of the document, even though you were the original "writer."

  1. Click on Tools >Track Changes > Accept or Reject Changes.

    In the dialog box, notice that you can accept or reject all changesódepending of course on how far you can trust that editor. Notice that you can view the document with or without the changes highlighted as well as the original document before the changes. But let's go at this thing item by item.
  2. Click the Find button that has the left-pointing arrow. The first change is highlighted; either click Accept or Reject. Experiment with both accepting and rejecting changes.

If the preceding didn't work entirely for you, look for other tutorials in editing resources.

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