Working with Track Changes

A closeup of the Review ribbon of Microsoft Word showing the Track Changes controls

Track Changes is a feature of Microsoft Word that shows what changes have been made to a document. The basic function is to highlight any text that is added (typically by making it red and underlined like this) or removed (typically by leaving the deleted text visible but red and "crossed out" like this).

As a proofreader and editor, I do most of my work in Word with Track Changes turned on so that the client can see what changes I've suggested. After receiving a checked document, the client can then accept or reject the changes. If you can't see any tracked changes, go to Review in the top menu, find the Track Changes section, and make sure the drop-down menu says "All Markup" rather than "No Markup"

Accepting/rejecting changes

It's generally advisable to check each suggested change. You can either accept/reject each change individually, or perhaps just reject the changes you don't want and then use the Accept All Changes function to accept all the others in one go. Whatever works best for you. You'll need to allot a suitable amount of time to go through the suggestions, which will depend on the length of the document and the number of suggested changes.

The technical side of working with tracked changes in Word will vary depending on your software version and system (e.g. Windows or Mac). Microsoft has guides with videos to walk you through it – click on one of the buttons below.

“Silent” changes

For long documents in particular, it can be useful for some changes to be done with Track Changes off. The aim is to reduce the amount of time the client has to spend accepting/rejecting changes. These so-called “silent” or “invisible” changes may be appropriate where an overall decision has been made such as to replace single quotes to double quotes throughout. This may be the result of a style that's been agreed at the start of the project. Untracked changes may also be suitable for routine “tidying” of text, for example removing double spaces or spaces at the end of paragraphs. When proofreading or copyediting text, I would keep a record of any sets of untracked changes and mention them in my feedback to the client.


In Word, a comment is a small balloon of text that appears in the margin of a document. I use comments in Word for a few reasons. The first is to explain why I've made a suggestion, which could be as simple as giving a link to a dictionary web page in relation to a corrected spelling. And the second is to outline alternative solutions, such as giving different options of how to reword something. The third is to include a query, usually where I'm not sure what to do as the meaning is not clear.

After you receive a document with comments, you'll want to work through these as part of working through the tracked changes. For informational comments that don't reuiqre further action, you can simply delete these once you've read them. With alternative wordings, you can decide what you prefer and update the text accordingly (probably with Track Changes turned off). For queries, you can either update the text if the solution is clear, or add a reply to the comment for me to read if/when you send the document back to me to take another look.

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