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How to Use Track Changes in Microsoft Word

‘Track changes’ is a feature of Microsoft Word which… tracks…your…changes. In other words, it adds a side panel which records all alterations to copy as they’re made and includes in-text visuals to show edits by using underlines, strike throughs and changing font colours.

Having at least a basic understanding of track changes can help you navigate a document somebody else has edited, as well as improve your ability to give feedback to others. If you’re involved in any kind of back-and-forth for producing copy, you’ll become familiar with track changes; it’s a professional tool that almost all desk-jobs encounter. So, what are the basics of track changes?

Getting started

To turn track changes on, select the ‘Review’ panel of the Microsoft Word task bar.

About half way across you’ll see the track changes button. Click the switch from ‘off’ to ‘on’.

Set the top drop down menu to ‘All Markup’ to ensure all changes are tracked.


Click into ‘Mark-up Options’ and make sure ‘comments’, ‘ink’, ‘insertions & deletions’, and ‘formatting’ are ticked ✔️.

Next, you can personalise further by clicking into ‘Preferences…’ Preferences allow you to customise how your edits are displayed.

Next, you can personalise further by clicking into ‘Preferences…’ Preferences allow you to customise how your edits are displayed.

A common format you’ll likely see a lot is blue underlines for insertions and red strikethroughs for deletions.

Making edits

Now that you’ve customised your track changes, it’s time to start editing. Start making changes as you see fit and you will notice the side panel open up on the right hand side of the page.

Any alterations you make to document formatting or text will be displayed here. The dotted red lines connect the side panel comment to the section of text it refers to.

When you click on a comment the line will solidify, so it becomes apparent which sentence, word or section the comment is referring to.

You can also add extra comments wherever you need to by selecting ‘New Comment’.

If you save the document with track changes on, they will be visible to anybody you send the document to.

Comment etiquette

If you’re suggesting something be removed, often it’s much more constructive to explain why. Of course, there will be some instances like spelling errors which come down to common sense and won’t necessarily require any justification.

When suggesting changes to tone of voice, document structure, or editing for grammar, it’s often beneficial (and courteous) to provide your rationale e.g ‘I believe we should alter the phrase beginning ‘Don’t’ to a phrase beginning with ‘Always’, so to frame the instruction in the positive rather than the negative, keeping the tone a bit more gentle.’

Providing alternatives is part of making deletions. If something isn’t working and needs to be removed, try to provide some guidance as to what it should be replaced with.

Responding to track changes

When receiving a document with track changes visible, the next step is usually to accept, reject or comment on these changes.

Accepting is just a matter of clicking on the change itself and pressing ‘Accept’. The drop down arrow next to the accept button has an ‘Accept All’ option if that’s what you want to do.

Should you reject a change, it is often best practise to provide your reasoning and either defend your original choice or provide a new alternative. Use your discretion in terms of the dynamic and hierarchy of the colleague you are going back-and-forth with.

The ‘New Comment’ button is great for communicating with your colleague about the edits. If they’ve asked you to do something a certain way moving forward, or explained something to you in the comments, you can respond with a comment to show that you’ve noted the advice.

Visually, track changes can feel overwhelming at first glance, but with familiarity comes confidence. Our Social Motive team are track changes champs, from our copywriters to our director. Need a hand crafting copy? Or looking for that second set of eyes to polish and improve your work?

Get in touch today, we’re here to hear you. Or sign up for the tips and tidbits you need to be a better brand for your audience.

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