All About Tracking Changes


Tracking is an amazing tool. It lets US see exactly what changes have been made, and accept or reject them.

There is also a comment function. This allows a “balloon comment” to be inserted over a word or phrase for queries or suggestions without introducing text into the document itself.

There is a lot of information already available. Please look at the following:

A good overall guide for all versions of Word

A concise YouTube video

A little bit more info: Five things about tracking.

Working with Tracking

To turn on tracking click on the REVIEW tab, and click on “Track Changes.”

The Tracking Ruler appears and ALL the changes  are revealed.

(Note: If you have just revealed a paper FULL of additions and deletions, before you cry, read this.)

Keyboard Shortcuts

If you will take the time NOW to make some keyboard shortcuts for some of the common “tracking functions” it will save you a lot of time in the long run!

Getting to Work-Viewing the changes

If you don’t see any changes shown, make sure that

  • The first dropdown just under “Review” indicates “Final Showing Markup” (see yellow arrow in picture below).
  • The second dropdown (next to “Show Markup) has ‘Insertions and Deletions’ checked. Also make sure that “Comments” is ticked, and you may want to TURN OFF ‘Formatting


Now, go through and accept or reject my changes.

(Note: If the document has a lot of tracking in it, and it is too confusing for you to read, you may prefer to work with two documents side by side…the original one for reference, and this one for working on. For details,  see here)

Sometimes, instead of seeing the changes IN THE DOCUMENT,  a balloon will appear for everything deleted or added. This is very confusing. If this happens, make sure the settings are: Show markup –> Balloons –> Show only comments and formatting in balloons. (If you clicked off ‘formatting’  the only balloons will be the comments). 


Start reading and noting the changes. If there aren’t many, accept each one as you get to it (Accept button on the review ruler, or using your keyboard shortcut).  You can select a whole section and then accept all the changes in one go.

1) Any punctuation, grammar, and spelling changes I made should usually be accepted. (However, I may have made an error, so if you think so, highlight it or add a comment. Don’t just “REJECT” the change.)

2)  Changes in style, vocabulary, and word order  were made because I felt they sounded better. But you are allowed to disagree.


DO NOT SIMPLY REJECT IT!  It may be something we need to discuss.

Write  a comment or mark it!!!  I made that change for a reason. (Even if it was because I misunderstood , you have to question why I misunderstood, and why the text wasn’t clear.

If you reject a necessary change without noting so, I will either change it again or, even worse, not realize that it was rejected and the error will remain.  

4) If I indicate words using a comment (not replacing text)  it indicates that I prefer this term to yours, but it is not crucial. Either add in my word, or delete the comment to keep your original.

5) If you see “As meant?” in a comment, it means that I have reworded the text and you should check carefully that I didn’t change your intention.

6) Text that is struck through (like this) means that I feel the text is not necessary. Usually you will see a comment. (As opposed to something that truly should be deleted.)

*Struck through means that I have formatted the text (Format -> Font -> Strike through); deleted means that it something I have erased but you see it still there because of the tracking.

I REPEAT: Be extremely careful about rejecting spelling/grammar corrections! If you do  make sure it is tracked! I do not usually REREAD the entire text for the second revision, just sections with tracking! 

Note: The following changes are usually not tracked (I do a general find and replace at the end):

  • removing double spaces
  • proper punctuation before quotation marks (for American style)
  • dealing with quotation marks (straight to curly, single or double)

(True story: Once I changed many incidents of third person possessive from ‘it’s‘ [WRONG!] to ‘its‘ [CORRECT]. The author thought he knew better and changed them all  back to ‘it’s‘ [and there were many]! Luckily, he had tracked them or the error would have gone through, to both our embarrassments!)

Returning the Manuscript – Second review

After going through  your text, it  should be pretty “clean.” Send it back for my second review, where I will examine your answers to my queries and check out other changes that were made.

IMPORTANT! I do not reread this second time the way I did the first. That’s why tracking is so important, to make sure I know where to look!


And here are some recommendations regarding naming the files: Dealing with All Those Files Flying Back and Forth

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