Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Track Changes Have I Loved

Yesterday, I told you all about my torrid affair with Scrivener. Lest you think I am a brazen, convention-flauting hussy, today I want to tell you about my favorite feature of that tried and true elder statesmen of the word processing world, Microsoft Word. (Gentlemen, you might consider removing your hats as a sign of respect.)

Let's face it, Word is still the standard for the publishing world. On those occasions when you have to send attachments to agents and editors, you're going to be expected to send a .doc. Same holds true for most critique partners and beta readers.

(For those of you who are considering the switch to Scrivener, fear not--you'll be able to save your Scrivening as a .doc without any trouble.)

By far, my favorite feature of Word is Track Changes. When you're getting all those valuable notes back from CPs, betas, or--god willing--and agent or editor, this is the BEST way to get them, hands down. Here's why.

Open up a document--No, go ahead, I'll wait. Go to Tools on the Menu Bar, and scroll down to Track Changes. Then Highlight Changes. I always select Track Changes While Editing, and de-select Highlight Changes in Printed Document. You can also use the options menu on this little pop-up to personalize your color scheme and so on.

Here's the brilliant part: Start making corrections in the original text. That's right, just plow right over whatever's already there. Delete things, add words, correct spelling or punctuation. Each change will cause a little bubble to pop up on the right, recording what you did. (Yes, this is the part where you make your precious story look like it's bleeding to death. Or blueing to death, depending on what color scheme you're using.)

Don't worry, any change you make can be restored.

You can also make comments. Select any word, sentence, or even just leave the cursor where it lies. In the Reviewing Toolbar, which should be at the top of your window now, click the New Comment button. It's a little yellow Post-It with a green plus sign in the corner. It will open up another of those bubbles on the right where you can type away to your heart's content, telling your critique partner exactly what you think of something and why. I'm a huge fan of this feature. Probably too fond of it, frankly, but if this blog has proven nothing, it's that I like to be long-winded and find myself fascinating.

But, I digress...

If you've been lucky enough to receive a document that's already been through Track Changes, you have a new set of instructions. Each of those bubbles has a tiny check mark or X in the corner that allows you to accept or reject the changes made. You can also do a sweeping Accept All Changes if you agree with everything your reader has noted. Or, even select large sections of text and accept just those changes.

In other words, you can get all those precious grammatical and spelling errors corrected with the press of one button.

I am telling you, this is the single greatest way to get or give corrections to a writer. If you're not already using it, try it with just a few pages and a trusted writing friend. I can pretty much guarantee the light will dawn in your brain in a matter of minutes.

This isn't a special feature, it doesn't only work on Macs or PCs--Track Changes is patient, Track Changes is kind. Track Changes does not envy. It does not boast.... Well, you get the idea. Best to quit before that crack in the earth gets any wider and sucks me directly into hell for my blasphemy.

As dry and didactic as this post is, I hope you learned something. If you're already using Track Changes, I'm sure you've slipped into a coma of boredom by this point. If you're not, you're probably intimidated. Trust me, try it.

So, my writing friends, what other time-and-energy saving shortcuts am I missing in my life? Educate me in the comments!

- Liz


Kristan said...

I used to hate Track Changes. Oh what a sad, silly child was I. Now I ADORE it.

Also, do you use the Document Map / Navigation Pane? That's how I keep track of my chapters and scenes, similarly to how you use Scrivener's folders, and I love it. For PC users, it might be a nice alternative (since Scrivener isn't available to them anyway).

Eleven Eleven said...

As a Track Changes novice, I adore you for posting the nuts and bolts.

Liz Czukas said...

Kristan, definitely not! I'd be thrilled to hear more about that.

11-11, I'll send your beta read to you in Track Changes format if you promise not to panic when you see the margin LOL ;)


YES! As a writing teacher, I use it w/ my students. I teach all my teachers to know it, use it, love it. (= Great post.