What to Do With an Edited Word File

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After you freak out over at all the mark-up, tell yourself this is typical for professional writing, take a breath, and roll up your sleeves.
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Your manuscript just came back from the copyeditor or proofreader. Now what?

It’s time to check the changes the editor made, answer their questions, and clear up any remaining issues. The file will probably go back to the editor for some final clean up. If it doesn’t, you have to clear ALL markup to make it ready for the printer/ production department.

There may be a lot of work left. This is typical and does not mean the writing is terrible. Even if an editor wrote it, she could expect as many edits on her work; writing is like that. Addressing edits takes an average of 1 hr per 2500 words, so settle yourself in and let’s go.

Short Version| Long Version

The Short Version

Turn on Track Changes before you work. That makes it easy for everyone to find new content. Just turn it on in Word’s Reviewing ribbon and type as normal.

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Find the Tracking tools and settings on the Review ribbon.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not use your own version of underlining or highlighting to mark changes. Such changes are far easier to miss and much more time consuming to clear. And they are prone to making it all the way through to the published version, as this case study attests.

In the edited file, you will see tracked changes as well as questions to you placed in “comment” bubbles. Address each comment, reply to ones that need more work, and delete comments once you resolve them. Reject any changes you do not like. Changes you like you can just leave alone, for now.

The Long Version

You can work through the doc from start to finish if you like. Or use the Reviewing ribbon to skip to each “next” tracked change.

1. Address each comment.

  1. Handle the ones you can, then erase them.
  2. Erase any comments that don’t need to be addressed. For example, ones that say “OK?” and you are, indeed, OK with the change it marks.
  3. Reply to any item that needs more attention and we’ll figure out a solution together. (Place the cursor on a related word in the document or in the comment itself, then click “New comment” on the Reviewing ribbon, or select New Comment from the Insert menu.)

2. Reject changes you don’t like, then solve the issue another way.

You might see a change as an indication that something wasn’t clear. This is your chance to write it better.

Navigating tracked changes

The Track Changes feature in Word will track anything done to a file. Typically, deletions look like crossed-out text and additions look underlined. Any changed words are shown in a different colour — a different colour for each person working on the file. (There are options and they’re specific to your settings. Two different views of changes are shown below. Let your editor know if you can’t see the changes they made.)

If I was your editor, you will only see changes that I want you to check. So if you told me, for example, to use serial commas, I’ll have done that without tracking the change. They’re “silent.” And if there was a global change such as spelling out all numbers, I’ll show you the first instance, then make the rest of the changes silently.

Use the buttons in the Changes area of the Review ribbon to navigate between the changes, and use the Accept or Reject buttons as necessary. Place your cursor somewhere in the change, then click the button. It will accept or reject and then take the cursor to the next tracked change.

3. Finalize the file.

If the editor is not getting the file back, you need to accept all of the tracked changes and delete all comments before you send the product off to the designer. Do these two steps shown below. They’re in the Review ribbon. I really do recommend having the editor review any last minute additions, and the product should be proofread after it is designed, but — eventually — the file will have to be finalized and sent out into the world.


This post is adapted and updated from a post on my general editing blog, back in 2014. Look there for instructions on Word 2011 and links to other versions.

Have PDF corrections instead? Here’s what to do with PDF markup.




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