This is page 2. Click here for page 1. This sounds like a lot of work for you, the author. But it’s actually more work if you skip this step. One author—whose prior experience hadn’t included the labor-saving devices that are part of Microsoft Word—didn’t do it this way and, well, made a mess. Later, when he heard I was writing this document, he asked me to include his horror story. In his own words:
You may want to mention that you worked with an author who opened up 2 sessions of Word. One with your changed document and one with his original. He then re-typed the changes into his copy rather than use the Track Changes updating method that you described. It caused numerous errors that weren't caught until after publication. This means that the authors [sic] changes weren't tracked so that you could see them for your second edit. The only way to fix it at this stage is by resubmitting the manuscript after another update. Not using the tracking feature also meant that it took longer than it should have. The types of errors made were typos, missed words, missed corrections and tense changes. All of which could likely have been avoided if the author had been more capable with the Comments and Tracking tool. I wish I'd known more about this when we started. It should be very helpful in the future if your authors are willing to learn.
I say Amen. And I’ll make two more points here: First, I will never reveal the identity of the author just quoted. Second, I have since changed my strategy of editing; it now includes making sure my new clients are aware of how these tools are meant to work.
Disclaimer: No Size Fits All
What I am writing here is not authorized by Microsoft, nor has it been reviewed by them. Any errors you encounter are solely the responsibility of yours truly. Feedback on this document is hereby solicited, even if you choose another editor for your work.
Microsoft Word is the most widely used word-processing software in the world, which is why I adopted it, years ago, on my Macintosh. But like the English language, which is also used worldwide, Word looks different to every user. The features work essentially the same way in each version of Word, but the buttons might be in a different place. And every published manual on using Word tries to cover everything, while you and I are only interested in two specific editing tools that are true labor-saving devices. This is not rocket science. Only the manuals are hard to understand, because they try to be all things to all users.
So your version of Word probably doesn’t work the way I describe it, which is how it works on my computer using my version of Word. Your mileage may vary. There’s no way I can explain every deviation. Others have done that, and their work is protected by copyright. What I can do is provide links to their websites, on the assumption that the information wouldn’t be there unless its authors wanted you to see it.
The Software Tools: How We Do It
The computer software will help us only if you and I agree on how to use it. Later, I will describe the edit-and-review process in more detail. We’ll use two features of Microsoft Word, one called Comments, and the other called Track Changes. It will be easier to wade through the rest of this document if you will spend a few minutes now doing some homework. Start by making yourself a new blank Word document. If you like, you can copy this text into your document, and actually test these steps while you read them. (Don’t use the manuscript you’re sending me!) Then get set up by activating the Reviewing toolbar: From the menu toolbar, go to View, then Toolbars, then Reviewing. (And if this doesn’t work, see the websites referred to below.)
Comments are easy. Have you used footnotes? Very similar. Now, I can make a comment at any point in your manuscript; I just click where I want the comment number to show in the text, then go to the Reviewing toolbar and click on the icon (the one that looks like a yellow document with a + sign in the upper left corner).
[But you know that Word always provides several ways to do the same thing. In this case, you can also go to the menu toolbar, then Insert, then Comment.]
The body of the text will now have one or more words highlighted in color (where I clicked); another pane will open up below the main body of the text, and that’s where I type the comment. Word automatically keeps the comments in numerical sequence in the text. OK, practice doing several of these in your test document.
When I return the edited document to you, your job will be to delete my comment. First click anywhere in the highlighted area in the body of the text. You will see a small box light up in the Reviewing toolbar at the top of your screen; it’s a yellow document symbol with a red X in the upper left corner. Click that; the shading in the main document, and the comment in the box below it, will both disappear. Try this on your test document.
You will need to know this stuff (about 7 pages) before any of the following will make sense. (But every minute spent here will save you hours during the edit process—and we just might outwit Murphy’s Law.)
End of Homework. Now let’s see how it works in the real world.
Putting it Together
When I edit your manuscript:
I turn on TRK, so that you will have a visible record of everything I do.
—I delete some things you wrote, and replace some of them with additions. —When I don’t understand your writing, I insert a Comment. —I turn TRK off, turn on Highlight Changes on Screen, and email your edited manuscript back to you.
When you work the edits:
—Make sure TRK is OFF. Otherwise, you are adding changes to changes, and we'll never get rid of them. —Make sure <Highlight Changes on Screen> is ON. So you can see the changes I made. —Make sure View Comments is ON. So you can see the questions I raised.
1. Go to the top of page 1 in your manuscript. 2. Press <Next Change> button. 3. If you agree with my change, press <Accept Change> button; if you disagree, press <Reject Change> button. NOTE that most of my changes will consist of a deletion and an addition; make sure you work them both! 4. Any time you want to add something, do the following. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! DO THESE STEPS IN SEQUENCE. → Take a deep breath. → Turn TRK on, so that I can find and edit your new stuff. → Type in the new stuff where it belongs in the manuscript. → Turn TRK off, for the reason stated under Preparation. → Exhale. 5. Press <Next Change> button, to get the next change. 6. When you encounter one of my comments, consider whether you want to change anything in the text, either here or somewhere else; then type it in where it belongs, following the instructions in Step 4. Then DELETE THE COMMENT! (NOTE: Sometimes you and I will disagree, and you will feel that my comment requires no response. Fine! After all, you’re the author. But please, DELETE THE COMMENT! 7. When you're done, email the manuscript back to me.
When I re-edit the manuscript:
—I make sure <Highlight Changes on Screen> is ON. So I can see the new changes you’ve made. —I turn on TRK, so that you will have a visible record of everything I do. —I turn View Comments ON.
—I start at top of page 1. I first look for comments. If there are any, I will stop editing at this point and call you. The edit will be incomplete if there are unresolved comments. (This is why I kept saying “DELETE THE COMMENT!” above.) —I re-edit the manuscript from page 1, using the <NEXT CHANGE> button to find the changes you made during your review of my first pass.
When I get to the end, I email the manuscript back to you. I have completed the edit that I agreed to do. You still have to review the changes I made, accepting or rejecting them as you see fit. And you can add more material.
I hope you don’t make any typos at this point. This is an iterative process that could (theoretically) go on forever, but my time and your money and the publisher’s patience are all limited; so at this point the publisher will shoot the editor and the author, and send the manuscript to the printer.
In some projects, we will mutually agree to break the job down into segments. I suggest that you begin by breaking the manuscript down into separate files, and then we can perform the above steps without tripping over each other.
If you’re still not satisfied after two passes, we can negotiate the next step.
Please make sure you understand these procedures before I edit your book. I would rather answer a dozen questions than edit the same book twice.