TEC’s Tips for Editing with Track Changes: An Introduction

by Lesley-Anne Longo

Published at 2016-09-07

For most editors today, the chance to work some editorial magic on a hard-copy manuscript is not one that comes by very often. For those who might not be so familiar with publishing lingo, hard copy just means an actual physical copy of the manuscript, often in the page proofs stage of the publishing process (printouts of the already designed and typeset book). Before the advent of digital editing technologies, editors worked on paper, writing notes and comments in the margins of manuscripts and using copyediting markup to indicate what changes should be made to the text.


I recently was tasked with doing a proofread of a hard-copy manuscript, and it was definitely an adjustment from the electronic editing I’m used to! I haven’t used my copyediting markup symbols for about three years, so I was a bit rusty. There is something to be said, though, for quietly working with pen (or pencil) and paper, making sure your corrections and notes are as neat as possible.

Pilcrows, carets, and stets, oh my!

What’s copyediting markup, you might ask? Copyediting markup symbols can look sort of like their own language, which, technically, they are, I suppose. To the right is arguably the most widely used (and referred to) set of copyediting symbols (also referred to as proofreaders’ marks), courtesy of the Chicago Manual of Style.


Any editor worth his or her salt will have learned these symbols at some point in their career, but these days, editors may find they need some reminders if a hard-copy project comes their way.

Upgrade your editing…

Onscreen or electronic editing seems to be the standard now, and often the easiest way to edit a document electronically is using Microsoft Word’s Track Changes function: you can show all your edits, and the author can accept or reject them as needed. Editors can also leave comments for the authors, which is useful for querying, and keeping track of who made what changes is easier when each editor has a separate user profile. Electronic editing is especially helpful if the document has small margins, or very heavy editing.


Being able to see and evaluate every edit that has been made in a document can also help the author feel more in control of the editing process, something that is very important to consider. Electronic editing also has the added benefit of being much more efficient than written edits—meaning the authors will see more bang for their buck!


Of course, any new system comes with its own set of issues. In the case of electronic editing, the main issue you may come across is incompatibility between operating systems (Microsoft and Apple products don’t always play nicely together). As well, looking at a computer screen for long periods of time can be tiring for your eyes—but then, so can hours of squinting at tiny text on page proofs! However, it’s arguable that electronic editing is easier in many ways, for all players involved.

…And redefine the author–editor relationship

All these changes and updates to the way we go about editing a document have also changed the relationships between authors and editors—the work editors do is now accessible, visible, and, most importantly, easy to understand, which can go a long way towards building trust between author and editor. Authors no longer have to learn markup language to decode the edits their editors may recommend, and in turn, editing has become a more collaborative process.


Who knows what kind of technology will appear on the horizon next? Voice editing, perhaps? For now, I’m happy to stick with Microsoft Word.




If you use Microsoft Word to edit your work, our newest free ebook is for you! Working with Track Changes: A Guide covers all the basic functions of Word, plus tips and tricks that can help you make the most of the program. Check out our free ebook today!