Pub Rants

Track Changes Coming Back To Bite You?

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STATUS: Snowing in the high country. You know what that means. Ski season is upon us!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? PENCIL THIN MUSTACHE by Jimmy Buffet

Given the dominance of PCs in the world, most writers are probably using Microsoft Word as their main word processing program.

Lately we’ve received a slew of sample page submissions that have all the writer’s revisions clearly outlined in track changes.


Although interesting, we really don’t want to see your writing process.

Just a friendly reminder to make sure you submit a “clean” version. The way to do that is to go to Review, then accept (or reject as the case may be) all the changes in your manuscript. When all are cleared, a little window will pop up to say that there are no more changes or comments in the manuscript. Then it’s clean.

Then there is no way for someone to open up “final with mark up.”

Happy Writing!

29 Responses

  1. Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said:

    I had no idea that could happen. I move my MS from Mac to PC & back again, through email or my flash drive. When I open, I just double click on it and it opens, just like that.

    I should look into this “final with mark up” thing and see what it looks like!

    Thanks for pointing this out.

  2. Tara Maya said:

    I once worked for a nonprofit that sent out an organizational update to some very important government offices and politicians. One week, we were goofing off with the newsletter, which was normally written in the most bland, passive voice imaginable, writing some really, uh, spicy stuff. We changed it all before we sent it out.

    Imagine our mortification when it turned out the spicy spoof was not only still visible but printed out with the letter!

  3. Joseph L. Selby said:

    When I worked in print production rather than media, we saw this problem a lot. When a Word file is emailed, the software sometimes hides the tracked changes. Even though you have track changes on, they don’t appear. Then you send it to someone else and there they all are.

    I’ve actually gotten first pages from a compositor that included the track changes as part of sample PDF.

    Best way to check is to hit the “next” error in your track changes menu. If the changes are hidden, it will prompt you with a menu asking if you want to make them visible. If there are none, it will tell you so.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Ack! That’s like finding out you’ve been walking around all day with the back of your dress caught in your underwear.

  5. Leona said:

    LOL Anonymous 8:16 I may never forget this advice because of your comment…

    I learned this the hard way recently when sending to beta reader. She sent back the answer to a comment I had that I needed to research. That’s how I found out…

    Very good advice. I’d even save it in new file and make sure it’s clean when you print it. (Word prints the comments if you have the tracker on. At least it does with how I have things set up. I didn’t PURPOSEFULLY change anything…:)

  6. Kevin P said:

    How about submitting PDF files? CutePDF is free and you ensure that there are no compatibility issues between different word processing software. It’s as simple as going to print your work and selecting CutePDF as your “printer”.

  7. Anonymous said:

    I used to use the word mark up because you could turn it on and off at will. Now, once its on, its on. That means if I click accept changes, and say change a comma later in the piece, it tracks that comma as a change.

    One reason why I hate word.

  8. maine character said:

    I found this out by accident, too.

    Now I just copy and paste the whole thing into Notepad, which removes everything you can’t see, and then paste it back into a new Word file.

    Only thing is, it removes the formatting, too, so I first mark all italicized words with a *, and then go and change those back.

    Awkward, maybe, but I know it’s clean.

  9. Philangelus said:

    This happened to me when my agent asked for changes, and the document she received contained changes from ten generations earlier. Back when I wasn’t even using the “track change” feature. So there were no tracked changes to accept or reject! There honestly was no way for me to have avoided the problem.

    It’s actually a Google Docs problem, not a Word problem (as much as I detest MS Word) and when I emailed it to myself at gmail, I was able to see the same garbage my agent was seeing.

    I saved it as an RTF file, and it stripped out the changes. On the agent’s side, viewing the document in MS Word solves the problem.

  10. Anonymous said:

    I don’t even know how to track changes, so this may be one case where ignorance is bliss.

  11. Peni R. Griffin said:

    Yet another reason not to use Word. Like I needed one. Seriously, this has got to be the worst word processor ever created.

    They can have my WordPerfect when they pry it from my cold dead fingers….

  12. Anonymous said:

    I’m totally lost. I am familiar with Word but obviously not as much as I thought. I have no idea what ‘track changes’ are. Guess I know what I’ll be doing this evening. Thank you so much for the post!

  13. Dayle A. Dermatis said:

    The final step in the process is then to turn Track Changes OFF. 🙂

    It’s a valuable tool on both ends of the desk when used correctly. Many editors use it to communicate suggested changes to their authors.

  14. Anonymous said:

    Is this something that is on all the time or do you have to turn it on? I am picturing all of my submissions showing all changes I’ve ever made!

  15. Yttar said:

    I don’t know if this is a difference between Mac (which I use) and PCs, but when I’m finished with my changes, I usually copy-paste the entire document into a new one so none of the track changes show up. All that transfers over are the comments, which I then address before deleting them, and submit.

    One time when I was using a PC at my library, all the changes stayed with the document even after copy-pasting it, but now I don’t remember how I cleared that up. I just know I didn’t submit a copy with the track changes showing.

    I guess this means I need to be more careful. Thanks for the heads-up.

  16. Leila said:

    In Word 2007, you can also inspect the document. Go to Prepare/Inspect Document. Then click the appropriate button to remove comments, revisions, versions, and annotations, or custom XML, and hidden text.

  17. ryan field said:

    I never do track changes. And I’m too old to learn now. Besides, I like working with a clean ms. I do edits the old fashioned way and never even see track changes until they come from the copy editor.

  18. Cindy Procter-King said:

    I’m still using Word 2003 and will continue to do. From what googling I’ve done, the ability of Track Changes to magically appear in an electronically received manuscript when an author has sent it off “clean” seems to be a glitch in Word 2007 and possibly 2010, as well.

    I don’t use Track Changes in my own writing. I have used it when critiquing, but if I receive a manu back that someone has critiqued using Track Changes, because of the way I edit and revise (pencil and paper), I just print out the pages in question and compare to my “master copy,” which is printed.

    At any rate, the writer might be doing everything she thinks she can to get rid of Track Changes on her end. Then she sends it to you, and they magically appear. You’d think this would have been addressed in Word 2010, seeing as it’s been around since 2007, but apparently it hasn’t. One of my editors still uses Word 2003, as well, because of this glitch. How aggravating.

  19. Anonymous said:

    It’s snowing there? Dang, we’re barely seeing snowflakes here in Anchorage. Maybe it’s time to move to Colorado. Send some of that stuff our way, please!

    Oh, right. Track changes = ugh.

  20. SARA J. HENRY said:

    Even if Track Changes is OFF, you can view all changes in Word unless you’ve accepted or rejected them all. (Turning it off does not make the changes disappear – and just because you don’t see them on your screen doesn’t mean they’re not there.)

  21. Jeff Baird said:

    I had the same thing happen to me. But mine was from an update. I went from MS Office 2003 to 2007 and it was auto on. It is under tracking in Review. It taught me best to email attachments to yourself FIRST and review. Saves issues.

  22. Anonymous said:

    It’s not a bug or a glitch. Dayle has it right. In addition to accepting all of your tracked changes, you also need to TURN OFF the “track changes” option in the Review menu.

  23. Anonymous said:

    Track changes should NEVER be used because, in the end, you can’t control it. Save each new batch of comments as a new version of a document. Invest in a real comparison program. Then you can redline to see changes without all that document corruption from track changes. It is a tool of the devil, like a lot of Microsoft stuff.