Care to guess what freelance technology innovation I could not live without?
OK, you didn’t have to work very hard to guess that because I put the answer in the title of this post.**
Little old Track Changes. Do you know how hard it would be to do this job without it? It’s the handiest way I know of editing copy when more than one person is working on a document. It’s the shorthand of choice between editors and writers to communicate what’s good and what’s bad in a piece, to ask questions and to make comments.
Yet, not a month goes by where I encounter someone who hasn’t been introduced to it, or worse, refuses to learn.
Just this week, a fellow freelancer complained about a book editor she’s working with who had printed out pages of her manuscript to edit an was going to scan or photocopy the materials to send back to her. Talk about living in the past.
Most full-time professional writers I know are on intimate terms with Track Changes and have been for a long time. The same goes for editors – well, most of them.
But I do a lot of sideline work on marketing and communications projects for nonprofit groups and inevitably helping with one of those I run into someone who’s never heard of Track Changes. Or they know about it but haven’t ever taken the time to figure out to how make it work.
To them and anyone else who still hasn’t figured it out I say, get over yourself. If you don’t understand how to use it, ask someone – heck, ask me. In fact, here’s a straightforward explanation straight from the Microsoft Word website:
- Open the document you want to revise.
- On the Tools menu, click Track Changes.When the Track Changes feature is enabled, TRK appears on the status bar at the bottom of your document. When you turn off change tracking, TRK is dimmed.
- Make the changes you want by inserting, deleting, or moving text or graphics. You can also change formatting.
If more than one person is editing a document, each person’s suggested edits will appear in a different color, making it easy to track which person is proposing what changes. That’s a handy feature if your editor’s editor likes to go over your copy and make suggestions for changes – don’t you love it when that happens?
We’re in the 21st century. Microsoft Word’s been out in one or another form for more than 20 years. There’s no excuse for not using it. If someone’s still making writers look at edits in hard copy it isn’t a style thing, or a fear thing, it’s an ego thing.
** I learned the headline writing trick at a Web-writing class I took at the 2009 Online News Association conference. In blog post titles, forget puns and cutesy headlines and stick with keywords related the subject you’re writing about – your posts will show up higher in search engine rankings for that subject.