by Jennie Ruby
Track Changes in Microsoft Word is an indispensible tool for editing, but it is not the best tool for the job in every editorial situation. You may find that both tiny details and big-picture edits cause you-and your reviewers-to want less tracking, not more.
For example, what if you are editing the text when you notice that PowerPoint has been spelled incorrectly as Power Point. Deleting the space with Track Changes turned on will create a mark that looks like this: Power-Point. Not only is that mark distracting, but it also looks a little as if you are adding a hyphen. Valuable production time could be wasted as your reviewers question that mark and try to change it. Making the change without tracking it is a good idea.
Aside from the time-wasting and distraction, another reason not to track a routine mechanical change is that you are not really giving the reviewers the choice of accepting or rejecting that change. Even if a reviewer of the edited document wanted Power Point to be printed with a space, you would not allow it, because PowerPoint is the proper name of the software. So there is no reason for the reviewer to see that you made what is really a standard correction.
Big-picture or substantive edits such as moving blocks of text may also not be ideal candidates for tracking changes. Although newer versions of Word (2007 and beyond) track and link moved text, you still have to first move, then edit the text to see any tracked changes within the moved text. If you edit first, then move the text, your changes are lost. For this reason, you may want to turn off tracking when you move the text, then turn it back on to edit the wording. You can tell the reviewers about the moved text in a cover letter.
Despite these contraindications, Word's Track Changes tool is still the way to go for indicating text edits for review. Using it judiciously actually helps extend, not limit, its usefulness.
Note: If you use Track Changes, consider coming to one of my half-day, live on-line classes. In three hours you may find enough shortcuts and new skills to save yourself days of work over the course of a year.
About the Author: Jennie Ruby is a veteran IconLogic trainer and author with titles such as "Editing with Word 2003 and Acrobat 7" and "Editing with MS Word 2007" to her credit. She is a publishing professional with more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing and desktop publishing.