MS Word’s most useful editing tools and how I use them
This page is for those who are inexperienced with Comments and Track Changes in Microsoft Word. And a refresher for those of you who haven’t used it since you wrote your last novel. It’s not meant to tell you everything you need to know; rather, it’s a starting point for you and me to discuss our editing procedures.
Introduction: Technology Really Does Help
The first time I edited a book, it came to me in the mail on 8-1/2 x 11 paper, double spaced, one side only. I used a fine-point red ball-point pen to make corrections and ask questions of the author. The author then hired a typist who, with 90% accuracy, re-typed the book with my corrections included. (I never did find out if the author saw the book after it was edited.)
Over the years, word processing and email have improved the entire procedure. It’s faster. It’s cheaper. There can be a dialog between the author and the publisher regarding plot problems. And with the author and editor each having the manuscript on a computer screen, and the cost of a long-distance call being negligible, your choice of editor is unaffected by distance.
There are two drawbacks: The computer can make mistakes much faster than a human being. And you have to invest some time in keeping up with the technology. You have spent months, maybe years, doing the creative thing with your computer; now you’re going to have to do the tedious thing. (Unless you trust your editor completely!)
If you’re new to Comments and Track Changes, study the following until you understand it. I’m always happy to discuss this with my clients. Even if you have had experience with these features, you’ll benefit from knowing how I plan to use them. And maybe you know something that will compel me to improve my plan.
Now Here’s my Plan…
If you select me to edit your work (and I hope you do), here’s how I usually operate. Everything is negotiable, but let’s use this as a starting point.
I will make two passes at editing your manuscript. In the first pass, I look at every word, every space, every punctuation mark—all half-million or more of them. Unfortunately, you have to do the same when I pass it back to you. That’s when you, in effect, edit my edits, accepting or rejecting them as you go. You then email your results back to me; I edit only your changes one more time, and email it back to you; you accept or reject my latest edits—and STOP! We’re done. (But click here to continue.)