a laptop

Photo by Radek Grzybowski on Unsplash

The Craft of Editing

Editing with Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word has many features key to the types of collaborative work editors often need to do. Here’s how to use it in your editing.

S. David Grover

18 March 2023 | 3-minute read

Microsoft Word is the most widely used word processor out there, the template from which most other word processors are adapted, including Google Docs. It includes powerful features that are perfect for editors collaborating with clients and colleagues.

Because of this, all editors need to know how to utilize Word's Review features. This article will outline some of the features and explain how to use them.°

Tracking Changes

Whereas Google Docs has Suggesting Mode, which lets you track any edits made to a document, Word's analogous feature is called "Track Changes."

You can find the Track Changes feature in the "Review" tab of the Ribbon (the toolbar at the top of the window):

Microsoft Word Ribbon

Click any of the tabs atop the Ribbon to reveal its specific set of tools. "Track Changes" is part of the "Review" tab. (Click to enlarge)

You can click the button to enable Track Changes (it appears as a toggle switch in some versions), which will highlight or otherwise mark all changes made to the document:

Tracking Changes in Word

A line in the left margin indicates that a change has been made to that area of the text. Changes within the document are shown in colored text and/or indicated by comments in the right margin. (Click to enlarge)

Clicking the button again will disable Track Changes, allowing you to input changes without them being marked.

Accepting and Rejecting Changes

As with Google Docs, you can easily accept or reject changes to a document. Right-click any change—either in the text or in the margin—to bring up a pop-up menu. There, you can choose either "Accept Change" or "Reject Change":

accept or reject changes

(Click to enlarge)

When working as part of a group of editors, this is an easy way to review and resolve other people's work, leaving the document stronger as a result.

You can also use buttons in the Ribbon to move back and forth through the changes in order and accept/reject them:

Microsoft Word Ribbon

(Click to enlarge)

Note: Unlike Google Docs, Word doesn't offer any convenient way to go back and view the accepted and rejected changes after they've been accepted or rejected. If you need to keep a record of changes, it's best to save a copy of the document to work in.

Adding Comments

Microsoft Word allows you to add comments in the margins of the text; this function is perfect for leaving queries for the author or questions for your fellow editors to weigh in on.

To add a comment, highlight any amount of text and then right-click and choose "New Comment" from the pop-up menu. (Alternatively, you can click the "New Comment" button in the Ribbon or choose "Comment" from the "Insert" menu.)

As in Google Docs, these comments can be responded to, allowing you to create a threaded discussion among editors or with an author. Just click on a comment to reveal a text box in which you can reply.

comments in Word

Comments typically appear off the right margin of the page. (Click to enlarge)

Clicking the three dots in the corner of a comment will give you the option to resolve or delete the comment thread. "Resolving" a thread hides it from view.

Resolved comments are hidden from view, but you can still access them if you need to. In the Ribbon, choose "List" from the "Show Comments" dropdown selector to open a dedicated Comments pane that includes both active and resolved comments:

Comments buttons

This area of the ribbon includes other useful tools for working with comments. (Click to enlarge)

Changing How Markup is Displayed

Sometimes you might want to hide the tracked changes or comments from view so that you can focus on the text itself. Next to the Track Changes button in the Ribbon is a dropdown selector with the following options for viewing the document:

David Grover is the cofounder of Grover's English and a professor of English at Park University. He earned his doctorate in Technical Communication and Rhetoric from Texas Tech University in 2017.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.