by Jennie Ruby
In my classes on editing with Word, I hear one complaint more than any other: "The people whose writing I am reviewing do not know how to use tracked changes."
Editors and publications people take my classes, but then express despair at the thought of getting their colleagues to cooperate in doing their reviews with the software:
"I can see a fight coming."
"My boss hates tracked changes."
"The problem is, the people I work with won't do this."
IconLogic reader Lia Scott adds, "Those who do attempt to use the online tracking often have difficulty following it--resulting in many double words, extra spaces and formatting issues. These are usually easy to fix, but show that they have trouble reading the document with the changes tracked."
When I first started teaching "electronic editing," or editing with red-lining or tracked changes, I figured I would have a couple of years of teaching the subject and then the entire industry of editing would be using tracked changes routinely. But this barrier still exists: the reviewers outside the editing department are nervous, reluctant, or downright against working with the tracked changes.
How can we get these colleagues to feel more comfortable with tracked changes and work with us on eliminating the redundant work of paper-based reviews?
One direction is to educate. As my colleague Dave Mankin said once in an Acrobat class, we have to be emissaries to our less tech-savy coworkers and explain the features of the software and show them the many ways it can be used beyond the basics.
I routinely include a cover letter to reviewers (the email message to which a document with tracked changes is attached) that explains a few settings the reviewer may want to use in reviewing the document. One of the tools I recommend in Word is the Display for Review tool, where a reader can select Final versus Final Showing Markup. By selecting Final, I explain, the reviewer can see a clean copy of the document. If any questions about what was changed arise, I explain, the reviewer can switch back to Final Showing Markup to see the changes.
For especially averse reviewers, I sometimes include two copies of the Word document: one with the changes accepted and one with the tracked changes still showing. I recommend that they read the clean one and write me an email with their changes.
I have also had success including a brief how-to about the Comments tool. Even if that is the only tool the reviewer uses, I do often get the changes in electronic form instead of in a faxed-back hand-marked printout.
Adobe Acrobat takes a different approach than Word, offering tools that reviewers may find are more akin to writing changes on a printout. The Text Edits tool harks back to the carats and dele's (a proofreading symbol used to mark something for deletion) world of hand-written changes. And the Sticky Notes tool, both in name and appearance, mimics the process of attaching a small, colorful sticky to a print document. For offices that have at least one copy of Acrobat Standard or Professional, the Acrobat reviewing tools are a nice alternative that may get reviewers over their tracked change aversion.
Have any tricks you use to get reviewers to be comfortable? I'd love to hear from you about this issue. And in upcoming classes these and other tools both in Word and Acrobat will be examined in depth.
Are you an eLearning developer who has been tasked with creating an effective voiceover script? If so, consider attending my Writing Effective eLearning Voiceover Scripts class. I also teach the Writing Training Documents and eLearning Scripts class.
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.