Fiction editing, either by freelance editors or those who work for publishers, is currently done almost exclusively in Microsoft Word using Track Changes. If you have worked with an editor before, you know the system, but sometimes I have a client who is new to the process. If you don’t know what the marks all over your manuscript mean or what to do with them, I can help.

If you absolutely can’t figure it out, ask me for a clean copy! I’m happy to send you a copy of your edited manuscript ready to go with all the changes accepted.

All screenshots show Microsoft Word 2013 for Windows. Other versions of Word look slightly different, but they’re all similar.

When you get your edited manuscript back, the copy editing will be visible in a different color (usually red, it depends on your computer.) This is called Track Changes. It lets you see and accept or reject any changes your editor made.

At the top of your screen in Word, you’ll see a tab called Review. This is where you find all the tools to use Track Changes.

Look first to the drop down menu at the top right of the section marked Tracking. This lets you toggle the changes on or off. When you have it set to No Markup, you won’t see the colored changes on your screen, but they are still there (just invisible.) Different versions of Word have slightly different wording in this menu, but the idea is the same and should be pretty easy to figure out.

See the difference between All Markup and No Markup in these two images of the same document?

Side note: All of the tools in Review are fun to play around with. You can see really interesting information here. Check out the Compare tool, for instance, to compare two drafts of a manuscript. For novels, though, I recommend you keep the Reviewing Pane (which is just a pane on the side of the screen that lists every edit) turned OFF. You can see this information more easily in the text itself, and in works of this length there are often so many edits the RP crashes Word.

Now that you can see all the changes your editor made, what should you do about them? In the section marked Changes, you’ll see buttons called Accept and Reject. These allow you to – as the names imply – either accept or reject each change made. You can use the buttons to go slowly through the entire manuscript if you like that level of control. Or, if you’ve looked over the work and think everything looks good, click the little arrow under Accept and choose Accept All Changes.

Just to the left of the Tracking menu is one called Comments. I often leave comments in work I edit. I might ask about an unclear passage, highlight something that needs attention, ask your thoughts on a change, or point out sections that really wowed me. When All Markup is on, you see the full text of  all comments and the section is highlighted. If tracking is set to Simple Markup, any comments show up as a text bubble icon to the side until you mouse over them. You can scroll through the comments using the Next and Previous buttons, and you can resolve them using Delete.

Now you know how to use Track Changes to see and accept copy editing work!


One last note: If I have copy edited your final draft, do make sure that you resolve all Track Changes before submitting your work to an agent or self-publishing it. You don’t want the editing included in the final product.

As always, if you’ve got any questions don’t hesitate to email me, I’m always happy to help.