Most word-processing software offer change tracking, the ability to
show what changes were made to a text, which provides the most basic
feature allowing for authors to review edits. It is typical, though,
that the sheer number of edits makes reviewing edits using just this
feature tricky, with the more significant changes that need attention
being buried under many insignificant edits.
So I pick out areas of text in need of further attention using comment
facilities. I use a set of abbreviations to classify these,
allowing for shorter, and more quickly acted-upon comments. For an
explanation of this scheme, see the list of my Abbreviations for
There isn't really such a thing as the ratio of comments to all edits:
longer texts tend to require fewer explanations, since passages in
need of discussion become increasingly likely to have already been
explained in an edit, and because I tend to acquire a firmer grasp of
what the author is saying, and am more often sure of how to fix an
ambiguous or incomplete text. The extreme opposite case is that of
the sample edit, needing much explanation; I discuss this in The
I try to make sure that the end document has the quality that all the
English is correct, even though there may be issues I raised in
comments where I doubt that the manuscript really says what was
intended. This is not always possible for me: for those manuscripts
that contain a passage for which I am unable to find a reasonable fix
for a passage, I highlight it in blue.
Microsoft Word's change-tracking feature, Track Changes, is the most
widely used system for reviewing edits, and despite some annoyances,
such as the inability to comment within footnotes, it works very well.
If you're not familiar with some of Word's options for reviewing
tracked changes, however, working through them can be hard work.
It generally makes sense to first deal with the issues that require
most judgement to resolve; this means the blue highlight text first,
and then the comments. Conveniently, Word has two menu actions
allowing you to move from each comment to the comment before or after,
and the ability to search for coloured text. Once each comment has
been dealt with, it makes sense to delete it — it is possible to
review all the comments again from the version I sent: this way the
set of comments reprost the "state" of the document, only indicating
the outstanding issues, and if new issue come up in review, they can
Then comes the mechanical task of looking over the pieces of text
inserted and deleted from the original. If there are dozens of these
together, it is much faster to look at all of the edits in a
paragraph, reject the changes you disagree with, and then highlight
the whole paragraph and accept all of the remaining changes.
It is also possible to view the final version of the document without
changes, read through this to see that you find the text acceptable,
and then accept all changes in the document together. If you are a
careful reader, and have taken into account the issues raised in the
comments, then this works perfectly well.
Reviewing changes to LaTeX documents is much more of a free-for-all
than Word, because there are so many choices in how to go about it.
The two I have found best are:
- Load the LaTeX source into a new Word document and edit that the
same way as any other Word document. This would work much the same if
we were to load the source into OpenOffice Writer.
- Put the LaTeX source into shared distributed version control
repositories (DVCS). This allows both of us to work on the document
concurrently, which may be valuable for longer assignments. Using
LaTeX macros to implement comment facilities, and latexdiff
to give a snapshot of the changes made between two states of the
manuscript, help with reviewing changes.
OpenOffice Writer and Adobe Acrobat's comment facilities don't allow
comments to be associated with a highlighted text, but instead point
to a particular place in the document. I use the same comment scheme,
where "highlighted text" is interpreted to be some region of text
following the comment.