There are some great features in Microsoft Word; one in particular that I have found helpful, and only recently started using, is the ?Track Changes? tool. I had seen this used by tutors in marking up my essays as well as The Voice Magazine‘s editor, who uses it to mark up my articles. It is a fantastic teaching tool, but it goes beyond that.
I can become possessive about certain sentences or words in my essays: I like to think of this as a writer’s quirk. While a sentence may sound “off” I can hesitate to change it for fear of possibly losing my meaning ?perhaps there is a way to make it more simplistic, but would that lose the meaning? Is simple always better (the answer is almost always yes.) Knowing this is one thing, following through with it can be a challenge.
When it came to making stylistic changes in my writing I have found using the ?track changes? option invaluable. I am able to go through my entire essay and make changes to it. I can reformat sentences and paragraphs with ease, without losing my original work: I can make the changes without commitment. While, yes, I might not be committing had I made the changes without the ?track changes? tool, it can be difficult to delete or move sections of an essay, to reformat without creating a large amount of work for myself if I decided to change it back. With the ?track changes? tool I can make all the changes I want, my original words are still there, the new words are clearly marked in red. After I make all the changes I can simply go through the entire document clicking either ?accept? or ?reject.? If I accept the changes the new additions turn black and blend into the document, or the section I “deleted” will then be removed. If I reject the changes I made it is with this simple click that the change then disappears.
With one simple click I can either accept or reject a change; my original words are not lost, and I have not created a large amount of work if I want to change it all back. Usually when I do this I end up accepting all my changes, but knowing I am not committing to the change, not yet, makes it easier to try something new and to compare it to what I had. I can see why a simple sentence makes a piece flow better and can take that onto the next sentence, next paragraph, and next essay.
Word has a number of wonderful tools, but I can be the type of person who likes to do things the manual way, or the hard way. But this is a tool I have found to be indispensable. For someone who has a hard time committing to change this is the perfect tool. A tool that I wish I had begun using in my writing earlier in my program. We all have our quirks when it comes to academics, certain traditions maybe, or stubbornness; we can sometimes see what we should be doing but have a hard time accepting that what we have written could be written in a simpler manner; that quality academic writing does not mean using large, filler words, but simple words that are clear and concise.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature