Devilish Details

Fiendish Tips for Writers and Editors

  • Turn Track Changes on and off
  • Choose what changes to show and how they appear
  • View changes to your text
  • Accept and reject changes
  • Use keyboard shortcuts to work more efficiently

(Word 365, Word 2019, Word 2016, Word 2013)

Word’s Track Changes function allows you and a collaborator (reviewer) to mark up text so you can easily see where they have made changes, such as added and deleted text. The collaborator could be your boss, a work colleague, your academic supervisor, a friend who is reviewing your work, your copyeditor or all of the above — so it’s essential to be able to use Track Changes expertly and confidently.

Let’s imagine (or maybe you don’t need to imagine!) that a collaborator has reviewed your manuscript and has added their recommended edits using Word’s Track Changes function, but now you have a document that’s covered in red, blue and green lines and formatting bubbles, and you’re thinking, ‘What do I do with this? Have I made more work for myself?’

This blog post is designed to help you manage those thoughts by guiding you through the basics of turning Track Changes on and off, choosing what to show as markup, viewing the changes to your text in different ways and accepting/rejecting a reviewer’s recommended edits.

Also included are five Fiendish Tips for when you’ve mastered the basics and you want to work with Track Changes even more efficiently.

Turn Track Changes on and off

First, let’s get acquainted with Word’s Tracking menu (see Figure 1), located on the Review tab.

  • To turn on Track Changes, click on the Track Changes button (it will turn blue).
  • To turn off Track Changes, click on it again.

If you’re a shortcut user, see Fiendish Tip #1!

A set of buttons (Tracking menu) in Word to show the button to turn Track Changes on and off

Figure 1. Tracking menu

Fiendish Tip #1: Toggle Track Changes on and off

With Track Changes turned on, whenever you make any changes to your work, deleted text will appear blue with a line through it (strikeout), and added text will appear red with a single red line underneath (underline). Word calls these changes markup (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Paragraph showing marked up text (strikeout and underline) in All Markup view.

Figure 2. Example of markup in All Markup view

When you turn off Track Changes, any subsequent changes to your text are not marked up, but you can still see existing changes.

Choose what changes to show and how they appear

It’s possible to choose which changes you want to show as markup (for example, insertions and deletions, formatting, comments) and how you want your markup to appear:

Image showing Figure 3, Track Changes Options dialogue box

Figure 3. Track Changes Options

Click on the arrow to the bottom right of the Tracking menu (see Figure 1) to open Track Change Options (see Figure 3) to choose which changes you want to show. In here, you can also change your user name (the name that Word uses to label your changes) — handy if you want your identity to remain anonymous.

Image showing Figure 4, Advanced Track Changes Options

Figure 4. Advanced Track Changes Options

Use Advanced Options (see Figure 4) to either change how you want your markup to appear (for example, colours displayed for each reviewer) or opt to turn on and off Track Moves and Track Formatting.

Note that lots of formatting changes can make your page look really cluttered, so if you don’t need to track them, it’s a good idea to untick Track Formatting (from the Advanced Track Changes box, Figure 4) before you start editing.

If that advice has come too late, and you already have a page littered with formatting changes, see Fiendish Tip #2 to accept them all simultaneously.

Similarly, with several collaborators editing your document, viewing them all at once can get a little confusing, so you may wish to hide the changes and comments of one or more reviewers (see Fiendish Tip #3). 

Fiendish Tip #2: Accept all formatting changes in one go.

Fiendish Tip #3: Show/hide a reviewer's changes

View changes using the Tracking menu

Choose how you want to view changes on the page, using the Tracking menu (Figure 1). You have four options:

  • To view all changes in detail, select All Markup from the drop-down menu.
  • Fiendish Tip #4: Toggle between viewsTo preview your document with changes hidden (a red line in the left margin alerts you that there are changes), select Simple Markup. See Fiendish Tip #4 for fast toggling between All Markup and Simple Markup.
  • To preview how your document will look when changes have been accepted/rejected, select No Markup.
  • To view your document without any changes, select Original.

Accept and reject changes

If a red line is showing in your left margin, this means you’re in Simple Markup view, and your document has tracked changes.

To view them, either select All Markup from the Tracking menu (see Figure 1), or click once on the red line — the line will turn grey. Figure 5 shows the difference between All Markup and Simple Markup.

To accept or reject a change, use the Changes menu (see Figure 6) on the Review tab.

Figure 5. Simple Markup (top) and All Markup (bottom).

Figure 5. Simple Markup (top) and All Markup (bottom)

Figure 6. Changes menu.

Figure 6. Changes menu

  • Select Accept/Reject and Move to Next to accept/reject and move on automatically.
  • Select the down arrows to Accept/Reject This Change (which doesn’t automatically move on to the next).
  • Select Accept/Reject All Changes to accept or reject all changes at once. Note that the last option should be used with extreme care! It’s good practice to review each edit before accepting or rejecting it.
  • Use the Previous and Next buttons to jump to the previous or next change from wherever you are in your document.

Use keyboard shortcuts to work more efficiently

Fiendish Tip #5: Assign a command to a keyboard shortcutMost Word commands can be assigned to a simple keyboard shortcut. See Fiendish Tip #5 for how to create a shortcut to toggle between All Markup and No Markup.

Have a scroll through the Categories list to find other commands you use frequently — pretty much any Word command can be assigned to the keyboard — and give your mouse hand a break!


If you have any questions or have Fiendish Tips of your own to share, please feel free to comment below!

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