Star Track

May 8, 2024 | Editing | 0 comments

Editing on paper, bah! Since I’m cack-handed (nope, it doesn’t mean what you think; check it out) my handwriting has more in common with a Jackson Pollack painting than the winning entry for a prize in penmanship. Perhaps I should have been a doctor. Then at least my pig pen would have come in handy for writing prescriptions. Luckily for my poor clients, the gruesome days of unruly writing are gone. Three cheers for on-screen editing. Now my corrections, revisions and comments are much easier to follow.

Thanks to Microsoft’s Track Changes I work in my clients’ Word docs with track changes turned on. But hey, I’m not the only “trackie” in the business. This is the world’s most commonly used tool for tracking revisions in docs created by one or more authors. Automatically it marks every change or comment made with a name and the date and time so that all involved in the writing and reviewing process can see who did what, when, and in a fresh color for each collaborator to boot.

Back in the day when I was a baby editor, my nastiest moment came the time I forgot to turn track changes on, only discovering this once I’d finished editing and had to send the finished article off to meet the deadline. Of course I confessed my failure to the client, an experienced operations manager at a university language center, who soothingly reminded me that I could still track the changes I’d made using the Compare/Combine feature in Word. What a relief!

But hey, this tracking tool is not only useful for editors. Writers can benefit from it as well, especially when we are revising our work. Just don’t switch it on too soon. If you’ve just started on an early draft, tracking your changes can quickly bog you down in a sea of red markup. Save yourself the aggravation and only switch on when you’re up to your (nearly-nearly) (nearly) final draft. Then by toggling between No Markup and All Markup you can easily see your revisions and accept or delete the ones you want/don’t want.

Now I’d like to share a couple more “trackie” tips. The first comes from one of the stars of the Editors’ Association of Earth on Facebook: Adrienne Montgomerie, best known as scieditor, “a teacher of editors and technology, a writer of editing resources, a certified copy editor, a speaker, and developer of a phonics app for iPad.” Adrienne gives us three great reasons for not tracking all changes. Check ’em out!

Another useful tip is to run the Document Inspector when you’re done with editing. Yes, dear Reader, there are moments when it is useful to over-ride your username in Word. Once you’ve run the inspector, Word will replace your name with a generic “Author” and delete the date each time you save and reopen the document.

Let me hasten to add that I’ve seldom needed to alter the name except on the rare occasion an agency has asked me to work under their heading instead of my own business, NEEDSer.

On the odd occasion, however, I prefer to keep the date to myself, for instance when I’d rather not let a client know that I’ve worked through a weekend. Then I’ll do a Compare/Combine (see link above) just before delivering the work on schedule. That way all my changes and comments will get marked with the same time and date and I won’t risk my client getting (subliminally) tempted to think I make a habit of working unsociable hours. Do you think this self-protective practice is deceitful? Why? The client can still track what’s been changed and that is what truly is important (but see Adrienne’s bit above, on when it is better to track changes silently).

Talking of truly… did you know that the most famous split infinitive in the galaxy nearly didn’t happen? Yes, really. The next to final draft of the very first episode of STAR TREK had “…to go bodily where no man has gone before.” One of the writers caught and corrected that “bodily” but was careless in marking the insertion. So the person saddled with typing the final script put the righted word in the wrong place. This couldn’t have happened with Track Changes turned on. And if you believe that, you’ll believe Mr. Spock had a bodily funny bone and would tell you I’m only joking.


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