The topic of this blog has already been briefly discussed here; however, this post aims to give a lot more detail and advice on how to check your document after it has been proofread and returned to you.

Firstly, and just to clarify, this blog is written for the intended audience of academics, students and (non-publishing) corporate clients who are working with a document in MS Word format using the Track Changes function. Proofreading for traditional publishing clients is often done on a PDF file using specialist mark-up symbols: this blog is not relevant to this sort of work. Also, the guidelines below only relate to material that I have proofread: particular ways of working will vary from one proofreader to another and therefore not everyone will work in the way described below.

So, let’s assume that I’ve returned to you a MS Word file showing lots of tracked changes in red text and – almost certainly – quite a few Comment boxes down the right-hand side too. What should you do next?


1. Take a back-up of the file
Things sometimes go wrong with MS Word – especially when the Track Changes function is used on a large file – and therefore I would recommend that you have a copy of the original document that I returned to you. Of course, I can always re-send it but it’ll save time if you keep a copy yourself.

2. Optional: Hide the formatting changes to avoid clutter on screen
If your document contains many formatting changes, it can sometimes make it difficult to see some of the other tracked changes on the screen. Therefore, in some circumstances it can be useful to hide the formatting changes in the current view. To do this, untick Formatting from the Show Markup dropdown box.

Untick Formatting from the Show Markup menu3. The bare minimum
The most important aspects for you to address are my comments/queries shown in Comment boxes. Generally, these will be things that really do need your attention and definitely should not be ignored. For example, I might have been unable to understand a point that you were trying to make and therefore it will need clarifying/rewriting. Or I might have asked you to confirm that my suggested amendment hasn’t altered the intended meaning of the sentence.

In short, if I’ve inserted a Comment box, it really does need your attention.

You should respond to the query appropriately, which could mean you making a change to the text or simply confirming that things are OK as they are. However, you don’t always need to send me the answer to a query you might just need to check/change the text as necessary. For example, if you’re happy with one of my suggested changes, for which I’ve asked for confirmation, then just mark the query as Resolved or simply delete it.

Also, if we have agreed that I will be carrying out a further round of editing/proofreading on your responses – which should be marked by using ‘Track Changes’, of course – you should either (a) mark all queries that don’t need further action by anyone as Resolved (note: the query can always be reopened afterwards if you change your mind), or (b) delete the query. Similarly, if you need to reply to my query – for example, to ask me to check some new text that you’ve added – please use the Reply option as this will make it easier to track the dialogue.

MS Word Comment box options

At the end of the editing process when all of the comments have been addressed and your document is ready for publication, you can select Delete All Comments in Document. However, keeping a backup copy of the document containing the comments and your responses is obviously advisable.

MS Word delete all comments

More information about responding to my comments can be found in this blog.

4. For your peace of mind
You might also wish to review the changes that I have made without any Comment boxes attached (i.e. minor/simple/unambiguous changes). These changes should not be too contentious and do not necessarily need to be checked by you, but I would recommend that you do so, for your own peace of mind if nothing else. The words on the page are yours, even after I’ve checked them, and therefore you should make sure that you’re happy with them. Of course, factors such as a looming deadline or a vast number of minor changes might affect your inclination to do this.

Changes are generally shown in red text and also with a vertical grey line on the left-hand side of the page, adjacent to the relevant text. Text that has been deleted will be shown with a strikethrough, whereas text that has been added will be underlined.

As you go through the document, rather than accepting/rejecting each change it is quicker to just Reject any changes that you don’t agree with (hopefully, there shouldn’t be too many). Once again, keeping a backup copy of the document containing the tracked changes is obviously advisable. Then, at the end of the process, simply select Accept All Changes.

MS Word accept all changes

5. Any questions?
Please feel free to ask me to clarify anything that is unclear with my comments or suggested amendments; sometimes, things are literally lost in translation. I will try my best to make everything clear during my proofread, but unfortunately it is inevitable that occasionally an author might not fully understand what I am saying.

6. Run a spelling and grammar check
Once all of the queries have been resolved and the suggested amendments have been accepted/rejected, please make sure to run a spelling and grammar check on your document. Mistakes can and very probably will creep in, right up until the last minute.