Jul 5, 2010

Knowing how to use tracked changes: important

I think I learned to use the "track changes" function in Microsoft Word back in university. Maybe on a collaborative paper? I was terrified, yet intrigued, having always bolded or underlined or color-fontified my changes in documents before that point, and then painstakingly searched through documents line by line to find all the changes.

For those who don't know, "track changes" is a function by which one person can make changes in another person's document, and that person can see what changes have been made and either approve or reject them. They can also automatically move from change to change, eliminating the need to strain their eyesight trying to see where commas have been inserted.

This is something you need to have access to and be comfortable with if you're serious about writing.

I'll repeat that. This is something you need to have access to and be comfortable with if you're serious about writing.

I can't tell you how often I've had people tell me they have this, or that they know how to use it, and then I find out that they've made dozens if not hundreds of extra hours of work for themselves by not actually using it properly. Don't do this to yourself! It's not harmless extra work either - it's piles of horrible, agonizing busy-work that will distract you from the real meat of your editing and cause your book to be not as good.

The good news is, it's really easy to learn! There are a total of about 4 buttons you need to know, and they are labeled things like "next" and "yes."

Youtube is an awesome resource for learning to use track changes, because you can search for your specific version of Word (including the Word for Mac, older versions of Word, and even Pages for the Mac) and get a video that shows you specifically what to do.

I'm writing this article as a permanent reference for clients - so if you've hired me to edit for you and you're saying "I don't know what she means by track changes, but I'm sure I'll figure it out when I see the edit," or "Oh yeah, track changes, I used that once a while back, I'm sure I'll pick it up as I go along," or "I have my own system, and it's always worked for me so I don't want to confuse myself by learning another way," or any other sort of response besides "I am absolutely 100% positive that I know how to both give and receive tracked changes, and I consider this so elementary that I can't even believe she's writing a blog post about it," then you MUST go look at Youtube videos or speak to your resident computer geek and learn.

To paraphrase that Geiko ad, "5 minutes could save you 100 hours or more of totally unnecessary, painful, horrible, torturous editing work."

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