Do You Use “Track Changes” in Word? (Betcha it’s your BFF after reading this…)

In yesterday’s post on Writers In The Storm, I talked about LinkedIn and how writers could use it easily and wisely. 🙂 Click here if you missed it.

Karen McFarland left a comment on the LinkedIn post that cued me in on a big boo-boo: I haven’t been sharing enough with my More Cowbell Posse! I’ve taught computer classes for more than 15 years…I’m a bit of a software geek. And she had no idea. (I should be flogged.)

In honor of Karen, today I am sharing my favorite software trick for writers – Track Changes. It’s my gift to you on this fine Techie Tuesday. Enjoy!!

Track Changes is a MUST for writers. It really eases the editing process for us.

Especially during those fights with your critique partners about paragraph-long sentences and head-hopping, Track Changes helps keep the peace. You give your opinion about whether the phrase, “smooth, like a baby barracuda” really conveys sexy and they can accept or reject your opinion as they wish.

And what about those business people I’ve been training for the last fifteen years? When I bring this feature up in class, 50% say, “Excuse me, Track what?” The other 50% cheer and say, “Thank God I’m going to finally learn to use that.”

Track Changes is the feature in Word that lets you trade input on your Word documents, back and forth, like a big OCD ping-pong ball, until it is just right. Trust me when I tell you every writer needs it.

Even if you avoid this gem during the draft of your book, you will need to know it when you sell your book because all the editors know it. And they want you to use it.

Note: If you’re already a Track Changes pro, bless you. You can scroll to the end of the post knowing that you make my trainer’s heart sing.

Using Track Changes

1. In Word 2007 or later, click on the Review tab (earlier versions, go to the Tools menu).

The Tracking subgroup is in the middle of this Ribbon and the first button is Track Changes.This button has two parts:

a. the top half (picture) simply turns Track Changes on
b. the bottom half (text) has choices about how you’d like to Track (see below)

2. Once Track Changes is active, edit your document as needed.

3. You will know which areas of the document have changes from the line that is visible in the left margin.

Additionally, you will see crossed-out text and formatting comments which are referenced in the right-hand margin.

Note: you can choose which changes to show by using the Show Markup button in the Tracking subgroup (see below):

Viewing Changes

The Display for Review button in the Tracking subgroup of the Review Ribbon allows you to choose how to review any proposed changes to the document. There are four viewing options, as shown in the drop-down list below:

  • Final Showing Markup – final document, with proposed changes (this is the default view displayed)
  • Final – shows the document with all proposed changes included
  • Original Showing Markup – original document, with proposed changes
  • Original – shows the document as it was before any changes were made

Note: If you just want to VIEW the final document, rather than accept or reject any changes, click on the arrow to the right of the Display for Review button and choose “Final” from the drop-down list.

To Accept Someone Else’s Changes

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Go to each proposed change and right-click your mouse. A shortcut menu will appear on your screen giving you the choice to Accept or Reject each change.
  2. Go to the Changes subgroup on the Review Ribbon (just to the right of the Tracking subgroup).

– The Next and Previous buttons will navigate you to each proposed change in the document.

– To quickly accept all changes to a document, as you would when receiving a critique from Yours Truly, click the arrow on the Accept button and choose to Accept All Changes in Document. (Ha! Killing myself here…)


Note: Be sure to turn Track Changes off if you are done making changes to this document or you’ll keep tracking! It’s really beyond annoying when you do that.

OK, there you have it… Geek time’s over till next Techie Tuesday.

In the meantime, please do comment and let me know if this was helpful or if I need to keep my inner nerd leashed next week. I can hold back. Really, I can. (I just don’t like to.)

So, do you use Track Changes? For those of you that have already discovered it, are you using it correctly? What do you like or dislike about it? You know enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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50 Responses to Do You Use “Track Changes” in Word? (Betcha it’s your BFF after reading this…)

  1. Callene Rapp says:

    Very cool. I can see the usefulness of this feature, but I’ve always been a bit intimidated to use it. Thanks for the lesson!


  2. Hi Jenny, a good description that MS could well take notes from! One other thing is that after enabling tracking, you have to use the print options dialog to control what’s printer, otherwise your MS will forever be printed in ant-font with everyone’s comments in the right hand margin!

    And really, 15yrs to admit being a geek? Don’t fret so, it’s almost acceptable in polite circles these days 😉



    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh, I promise I’ve admitted my geekdom before now, but I was truly shocked that some of my new pals did not know about it. I’ll whip up on the tech posts for the next few Techie Tuesdays…


  3. Gene Lempp says:

    I’ve never used this but I will be now (at least when I use Word which is getting to be a rare event in and of itself). Thanks for the great info, nice teaching style, Jen 🙂


  4. Julie Glover says:

    This is a MUST in our house. It also works great between spouses who need to jointly put together documents. My hubby or I will write something, and the other comes along and does the Track Changes thing. It is MUCH better than the prior practice we had of just changing the other’s wording (um, yeah, still married).

    I used this very feature when critiquing someone else’s short story recently. I especially like the ability to leave a Comment where I make a change, so that I can explain my reasoning. So glad you highlighted this tool!


  5. I love track changes, but it took me forever to use it. I had never touched it till last year when Sherry Isaac, Gloria Richard, Lyndi Alexander and Joan Swan critiqued for me. Those ladies left my ms swimming in color and it was so cool to have them each have their say on the same document! It meant that if something was very important, they could each put in their color coded two cents, but it also meant they could bounce off of each other with ideas! Now I use it all the time!


  6. We use this in our weekly critique group and I love it! But, I’ve never used the accept/decline. So thank you! I learned something new and will forward your post on to my group!


  7. Love Track Changes 🙂 Great post highlighting it.


  8. Laura Drake says:

    Yeah, but you’re OUR geek, that’s the thing.

    I too, was intimidated by Track Changes, until I joined my crit group. It was sink or swim, and when they heard I didn’t know how to use it . . .Let’s just say I know what a special needs person feels like.

    Now I can’t NOT use them! Great post, Jenny.


  9. Carrie says:

    I’d never really thought about it but I could see how this will really help once I get into the nitty gritty editing process of my novel.

    I’ve used this for work, never for personal. Thanks Jenny 🙂


  10. I love the track changes in word. My crit group uses it. If you’re really good one person tracks changes then, the next, etc. until all have seen it. You get back all the comments and changes in a color assigned to each person. Makes rewriting so much easier.
    Diana Lesire Brandmeyer


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks for stopping in to see us Diana! You are so very right. I love that if one of my critique partners fixes a sentence for me, all I have to do is just hit “accept.”


  11. Love it. Use it. But I know even more about it thanks to this post. No Jenny, don’t ever hold back on us. Keep it coming! Thanks!


  12. Been using it at WWBC A team for a couple of years, but I didn’t know about the “accept/reject” option. Also didn’t know we could all edit the same document with it. We always each submit our own editing with our initials on it. I can see an advantage to having all the editing on one document.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      It’s excessively cool to do it that way, but you have to have time to “route” the document to get everyone on the same page so to speak. I prefer to have everyone critique separately and then email it to me. Y’all are gonna have a great time with the “Accept/Reject” feature!


  13. K.B. Owen says:

    Nice post, Jenny! I’ve used Track Changes when I was doing some freelance editing. I didn’t know about the different views, though!

    Love your Techie series!


  14. Maria says:

    I didn’t know that people didn’t use Track Changes. This post was great because I did learn some new stuff about accepting all, and how to view the versions. Thank you for a nice and timely post as I start my own edits before I send it over to my partner.


  15. Brinda Berry says:

    Great post, Jenny. I’ve used track changes for a long time. There is one important lesson I learned many years ago. Always check that you have accepted or rejected changes and deleted comments before sending a document on to someone who doesn’t need to see the draft version. I once received a document from a government official who didn’t realize that. There were lots of interesting comments and changes in the document. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG!! Did you ever tell them? While that’s exceptionally good for you, what a bummer for them. A gal on Twitter said that she submitted to an editor without finishing her “Accept/Reject” and she forgot to turn Tracking off so they saw it all. It IS embarrassing!


  16. I’m a freelance editor, and it’s absolutely shocking how many people don’t know how to use track changes. It’s also a life-saver for anyone co-writing a book (the way I am). Lisa and I pass each chapter back and forth multiple times, and I don’t know what we’d do without track changes.


  17. tomwisk says:

    Another gizmo on Word. Thanks will keep this post for future reference.


  18. Marcia says:

    Never used and didn’t know what it was for…til now. Great explanation, Jenny, but for my 2000 version of Word, a lot of it doesn’t apply–like the Show markup stuff. Guess I need an updated Word program. But I can see that I can still use this version without all the bells and whistles provided whomever is sending me a critique on my work has the same version, right?

    Don’t stop offering this techie stuff—it’s a lifesaver for those of us who are not so techie. 🙂 Thanks!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Marcia, you still have all that in version 2000, you just have to right click on any toolbar at the top of your screen and turn your Reviewing toolbar on. All the bells and whistles are there. Have fun with it. 🙂


  19. Whoa. Didn’t mean to stir up this much attention.

    But now that you’ve come out of the techie closest, I know who to call with my next techie question!

    See what you did? 🙂 !!!!!!!!!


  20. I’ve seen this used but didn’t know HOW to use it. And now I love it, Jenny. Thanks for sharing the great tip!


  21. I’ve used it in the past but it was driving me crazy. Maybe I wasn’t using it to its full capacity. Thank you for such a comprehensive, step-by-step tutorial. I must admit, you wear the geek hat really well 🙂 Hugs.


  22. Great post Jenny – love the screen shots – they really make it easy to wrap your head around the tool! In my professional capacity, I’ve become quite adept to track changes and we’d be LOST without it. Handy little devil and I can see how it’d really be useful for writers!!! Fab post – thanks for bringing us all to the techie dark side. 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh, I’ve got much more techie evil devils in store for y’all…Thanks for including this in your awesome Thursday mashup (everyone go click that link below!).


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  24. Followed a link from Natalie here and so grateful that I did! My critique group uses Comments but never Track Changes. I’m going to go experiment a bit here. . . thanks much!!!!


  25. I have never heard of Track Changes and I use pages on my Mac, but guess what? I just checked and I have it! It’s under ‘Edit’. Who knew? Not me, certainly!

    Thanks for the great techie stuff. Sometimes I still don’t know what the heck you’re talking about, but someday I might!


  26. jfhilborne says:

    This is great. Thanks for making it so easy.


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