Event Review: Beyond Track Changes

Written by Amy Haagsma; copy edited by Meagan Kus

Review of seminar Beyond Track Changes with Iva Cheung, Grace Yaginuma, and Ann-Marie Metten (offered by EAC-BC on November 29, 2014).

For most editors, the majority of our onscreen editing is done using Microsoft Word. For many of us, it’s a love–hate relationship: we’ve learned to live with (or work around) the “features” we dislike.

EAC-BC’s November seminar, Beyond Track Changes, promised to help us get the most out of Word, tame its most irritating features, and work more efficiently, as well as to demystify advanced features like wildcard searches and macros. Naturally, the seminar sold out quickly!

Beyond Track Changes was based on and adapted from Onscreen Editing: Getting the Most out of Microsoft Word, which Iva Cheung and Grace Yaginuma have taught previously at SFU. Ann-Marie Metten also assisted to ensure attendees had plenty of help and personal attention.

The first order of business was setting up and customizing Word to make it really work for you. We then learned a variety of keyboard shortcuts for commands, special characters, navigation, and selection, as well as how to assign custom keyboard shortcuts.

Next, we delved into Track Changes, including setting your identity and preferences, using comments for author queries, and protecting and comparing documents. Iva also recommended minimizing the number of individual tracked changes in a document. Although this can result in more markup overall, it decreases the number of changes an author must review and reduces the chance of errors being introduced if only part of an edit is accepted.

We also covered Word’s Find and Replace tool, which most people are familiar with, but I was surprised at how powerful it is. You can use Find and Replace to clean up and change formatting, check for consistency, and even add HTML tags. Wildcards add even more functionality, as you can search for patterns of text such as two-digit numbers or acronyms.

After a break for lunch, we talked about styles: why and how to use them, how to modify built-in styles, and how to create new styles. Although I use styles regularly, I was amazed at the level of detail you can specify. For example, you can use styles to indicate that certain text should not be spell-checked or should be spell-checked in another language. If styles have been consistently applied, you can also use Outline View to look at and reorganize a document’s structure.

We then moved on to some more advanced topics, including combining multiple documents, using AutoCorrect and AutoText for boilerplate text and common queries, and building a style sheet. Bonus: Iva also showed us how to fact-check multiple items at once before adding them to your style sheet (you can even add a macro for additional time savings). See Iva’s blog post “Fact-checking timesavers” for a tutorial. Another great tip was using Split Screen and New Window to view two sections of the same document. Although I knew of these features, I had never considered the range of uses, such as checking citations or tables of contents.

Last but not least, we touched on macros. Although they sound complicated, a macro is really just a series of instructions. Macros can be very useful for automating repetitive tasks. Iva assured us that we did not need to know how to program to create our own macros, but you can also use macros created by others if you prefer, such as the free macros provided by Paul Beverley.

I left the seminar exhausted but full of knowledge. I learned many new things, such as wildcard searches and using macros. I also learned extensions or new layers of features I already knew how to use. In only a few weeks, I’ve been able to put a lot of what I learned into practice. Becoming more familiar with keyboard shortcuts has been a huge time saver, especially shortcuts for navigating through a document. Even saving a few seconds here and there does add up, and it helps me maintain focus not having to reach for the mouse.

This was an excellent seminar for anyone who works in Microsoft Word.

Amy Haagsma is a marketing communications professional and a graduate of SFU’s Editing Certificate program.

Meagan Kus is a freelance copy editor and proofreader with an 18-year background in arts administration.

Image by Bigstock; modified by Amy Haagsma

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