How to Review & Track Changes in Microsoft Word

Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and a PhD in Higher Education Administration.

In this lesson, we'll look at the review and track changes features that can be used in Microsoft Word documents. Let's continue reading to learn more about this helpful document editing tool.

Reviewing a Document

Twenty years ago, an editor typically used a red pen to review an important written document. If there was another layer of review, a green pen was likely used. Microsoft Word's track changes function has made reviewing and editing a document a much easier process.

When you work collaboratively on a project that includes a Word file, generally more than one person needs to have the file - or have access to that file - and the ability to review and make changes to the file. However, imagine you have a 150-page dissertation, and you send it to your faculty chair to review. The last thing you want is for the reviewer to make changes without you being able to identify those changes. Or, if the reviewer were to take a red pen to it, you'd need to worry about translating the red pen scribble remarks into changes in your Word file. In Microsoft Word, comments and track changes, found under the 'Review' tab, is Microsoft's way to fix the age-old version-control problem.

Comments Feature in Word

In Word, one way for a reviewer to make notes about something in a document is to insert a comment. The reviewer selects the text he or she wants to bring attention to and then clicks 'New Comment' in the Review tab. Then the reviewer is able to type in comments, which are placed in a text bubble on the right margin of the document. These comments can then be reviewed and deleted or taken into consideration, leading to the paper being changed, replied to, or just deleted by the original author.

Track Changes in Word

Another option for a reviewer to provide feedback is through Microsoft Word's track changes feature. Using track changes, the author or anyone else who is given access, can make changes to the actual document, but those changes are typically recorded and summarized in the right margin. In the left margin, there is an indication, a red line as tall as the text line, that some change has been made.

For example, if an author deletes and replaces the beginning of a sentence with new phrasing, the new wording would be shown in a different color than the original type, and whatever the reviewer changed would have a line through it. But, just because it was changed, doesn't mean the author has to live with the changes.

Accept or Reject Changes in Word

Perhaps even better, the changes can be accepted or rejected. When the original author gets the document back, he or she reviews the document for the changes. If the author wants to accept the changes, he or she clicks accept, and the changes are turned into the permanent text and the markup disappears. If the author doesn't want to make the change, then he or she rejects the change, and that part of the documented changes is erased, and the text changes back to the original text.

Even before the author reviews the changes suggested by the first reviewer, a second reviewer can add his or her thoughts. This reviewer's changes (and comments) will be a different color and will have the author's initials by them, so the author can identify the source of the suggestion. The document can then be changed as necessary to meet the expectations of the reviewers.

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