“I just got the manuscript back from my editor, and it’s covered in red. What do I do now?”
If you’ve never worked with tracked changes before, it can seem overwhelming. The thing to remember is that this method helps you retain control of your manuscript. You can see everything the editor changed and exercise your final say over all recommendations. If you take it one step at a time, it’ll become second nature.
Note: All instructions refer to the Office 365 version of Word.
There are two main approaches to resolving edits:
- You accept, reject, or modify each edit yourself, or
- You leave comments in the margin where you disagree with a change, and the editor will incorporate those decisions and resolve the remaining edits.
The first option is great for people who like tight control over their work (like me); the second leaves less room for introducing new errors into the manuscript. Both methods are valid—just make sure you and your editor discuss which to use when you negotiate the contract.
Keep in mind that edits will fall into two categories:
Noncontroversial edits: These involve changing something wrong into something right. For example, your editor might fix an error in subject-verb agreement. This type of edit should not be rejected unless you have a very good reason, and even then you should probably discuss it with your editor. For example, you might want to leave it as-is because it appears in dialogue or because the narrator is using a nonstandard dialect. If you simply think the editor is mistaken, again, please bring it up with him or her.
Subjective edits: These involve issues that are subject to a judgment call. The original text might require a change but could be modified in many ways, or perhaps it was okay as written but the editor is suggesting an improvement. This type of edit is a lot more open to author modification or rejection.
Making Your Own Edits
If you do this part wrong, it might cost you extra money. So read carefully!
It is completely natural for you to make changes of your own while you’re reviewing the editor’s work. Sometimes when they suggest a rewording, you think of an even better alternative. Or perhaps your editor recommended that you add a little more description or more vivid action or clarify an ambiguous point.
But STOP RIGHT THERE for a minute.
PLEASE USE TRACKED CHANGES WHEN YOU MAKE ANY EDITS TO THE MANUSCRIPT.
This is very important. When you track your own changes, the editor can easily find the new material and review it without having to reread the entire manuscript.
If you do not track changes, you’ll risk leaving errors in or find yourself paying extra for another close read-through.
Yes, your editor can use the “compare” function in Word to see what was changed, but this is much, MUCH more cumbersome than tracked changes and may still cause you to incur further charges.
Track. Your. Changes.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Click the “Review” menu.
2. Click “Track Changes” (make sure the “Track Changes” button is a darker gray than the rest of the toolbar; if it isn’t, then try clicking it again).
3. Make sure that “All Markup” is selected.
4. If you’ve never used tracked changes before, click “Show Markup” and make sure there are check marks next to Comments, Insertions and Deletions, Formatting, and Highlight Updates.
Now you’re ready to make changes of your own!
Resolving Tracked Changes
As I said, you have three options with any given edit: keep it, reject it, or make an alternate change. This section will assume you’re resolving the edits yourself. (If you plan to leave comments and have your editor do the actual resolving, then you’ll follow the steps below in “Addressing Comments.”)
There are several ways to navigate from change to change:
1. Put your cursor at the beginning of the document and use the “Next” and “Previous” buttons to move from change to change, then click to accept or reject (see #2);
2. Use your mouse to highlight a section of edited text and click to accept or reject; or
3. Right-click on something in red to accept or reject it.
Your editor will leave different types of comments in the margin. These may include:
- Praise for strong writing decisions
- Explanations of certain changes
- Suggestions for further change or action
The first two types are for your information only, and you can delete them after reading. But the ones in red are actionable. This means you need to make some kind of change yourself or do additional legwork, such as researching the correct procedure for building a campfire or requesting permission to include a quote from a copyrighted work.
To delete a comment, either right-click on the comment and choose “Delete Comment”:
Or click on the comment, then click the “Delete” button:
For some actionable comments, you’ll make changes directly in the text (see instructions on using tracked changes yourself, above). For others, you’ll need to reply to the comment. To do that, click on the comment, then click the “reply” button and begin typing:
Viewing a Clean Copy
Sometimes you may want all the red to go away so you can check how a paragraph flows and make sure everything looks right if the changes are accepted. There are a couple of ways to do this:
1. Hide edits in the same document. Under the Review tab, click the drop-down menu where it says “All Markup” and change it to “No Markup.” This doesn’t actually remove edits; it’s just a preview. Change it back to “All Markup” when you’re ready to see edits again:
2. Alternatively, most editors will provide you with both a redline copy and a clean copy. You might find it helpful to have both copies up side-by-side for easy comparison:
That should get you started! If you’re one of my clients and you hit a snag, be sure to contact me for help.
Also, check out part one of this series, Intro to Tracked Changes.
Utopian Editing provides editing services from concept through proofreading. Click here to request a free sample edit and quote.