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Book review – Ebonye Gussine Wilkins – “Respectful Querying with NUANCE”

Book review – Ebonye Gussine Wilkins – “Respectful Querying with NUANCE”

This book is published by the Editorial Freelancers Association, who are based in America, and I ordered it direct from them. My attention had been drawn to it by a couple of fellow-editors and I thought it would be useful to read and then share about here.

What it says on the back of the book

The blurb on the back summarises the book perfectly:

Editors working with writers of color or marginalized writers have dictated editorial changes that have misrepresented the writers’ voices for far too long. Writers receiving assistance from editors who don’t share their cultural backgrounds or experiences often don’t get the appropriate editorial support because of misunderstandings. Respectful Querying with NUANCE offers a framework that allows editors to continue to provide the necessary guidance while still respecting the author’s voice and encouraging the author to make the manuscript’s final editorial decisions.

Ebonye Gussine Wilkins herself is “a social justice writer, editor, and media activist shaping media through the lens of inclusion” (p. 29) and as such is ideally placed to guide other editors through this process.

What you get in the book

The introduction sets out the author’s stall as someone who is not a gatekeeper or rule-imposer but just wants to “help the writer put forth the best version of their manuscript” (p. v). She moves on to talk about how writers of colour or writers from marginalised communities outnumber editors of colour and from marginalised communities, so there are likely to be occasions when there’s a mismatch between the cultures of the writer and the editor. The editor in this case needs to be extra careful to let the author’s voice shine through and to not seek to suppress evidence of the author’s culture or background in their editing work – especially through their queries.

A query is where the editor puts a comment in the text because they’re not sure what the author intended to put across or needs to make a suggestion. For example, I have used queries recently to check what word someone intended to use when I suspected their voice-to-text software had inserted something a bit odd and, in a sort of backwards version of what this book is talking about, to suggest an author used singular they instead of he/she to avoid gender binary issues in the text. What Wilkins wants editors to do, entirely appropriately, is to take special care when doing this to pay attention to the author’s culture, and not to, for example, smooth out specific cultural terms into more ‘mainstream’ ones they might know and accept more readily themselves, certainly not without thinking about it. The main thing is to empower the author to make decisions on what’s in their own text, and to make sure that the editor’s culture, especially if it’s the dominant culture in the society in which they’re working, doesn’t dominate the author’s own voice.

Wilkins offers a handy framework to do this, based around NUANCE (Notice – Underscore – Accept – Narrow – Consult – Empower). I won’t go into all the details because then I’ll just be parroting the book. If you’re an established editor used to working supportively with writers of different groups to your own, you will probably do this intuitively. If you’re a new editor, or someone who’s feeling a bit challenged by working with someone’s manuscript that is different from your own more commonly held experiences, you’ll find this framework very useful.

My thoughts

I think this is a really good resource, especially for new editors or those needing to come to terms with working with texts that approach issues from or are written from other than their own cultural or personal characteristics. I’ve worked with all sorts of authors for years, and it encouraged and reassured me that I’m on the right tracks with the way I work with clients who are different to me in their backgrounds and lived experiences. The worked examples were useful, and the emphasis on looking things up and checking them with other external sources before assuming they’re incorrect was written in a way that was useful and supportive to the editor. In addition, with more lists and directories available of editors with different cultures and characteristics, I would – and have – directed authors who come to me with very specifically culturally rooted texts to approach an ‘own voices’ editor to work with them, something which may well be more comfortable for both, if they choose to. If they choose to work with me, I’m more confident after reading this short book that I will be able to support and empower them, working with them to make their text represent them and their thoughts as well as it can.

 

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Gendered language and language change

Today I’m sharing an excellent paper, “The State of Gendered Language“, written by experienced and highly respected editor Sarah Grey.

Gendered language is language that takes account of gender and gender-related terms in a marked way, for example using “female doctor” or “male nurse” to point out ‘deviations’ from some shared ‘norm’, using the pronoun he for unnamed examples of bosses, and she for unnamed examples of secretaries, or promoting the gender binary by using he/she or his/hers when there are plenty of folk who exist along a continuum that’s not just binary.

As writers, it’s important to be inclusive – mainly for social and ethical reasons but also, why limit our audience? This article is likely to help writers understand the background of the changes they might be asked to make by editors, agents or readers.

As editors, many of us try to introduce these concepts to authors who might not have encountered them. This article gives us a great resource to back up what we’re saying with some solid and professional facts and references.

Sarah Grey’s article “The State of Gendered Language” appears on the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders’ website. Thank you to my colleague Katherine O’Moore-Klopf for drawing my attention to it.

Other related articles on this website

Medalling, podiuming and singular they

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2021 in Copyediting, Ethics, Language use, Writing

 

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Do editors make mistakes? What should you do if you find your editor has made a mistake?

I have written a little bit about errors in editing before, but this article by my colleague Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing says everything that I would say about the issue.

Another reason editing can’t be perfect is the simple fact that editors are as human as writers and designers and every other person on our planet. Even though we’re trained and practiced at finding errors, we do miss them. And we’ll miss more of them when there are a lot of errors in the manuscript. Catching more errors might mean taking another pass through the document, which could mean more time and more expense. A good editor keeps your timeline and budget in mind when trying to make the manuscript the best it can be.

Read the full article here.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2021 in Copyediting, Errors, Ethics, proofreading, Writing

 

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What are the stages involved in writing my book?

a hand writing in a bookWhat are the stages involved in writing a book? Where do editing, proofreading and beta reading fit in?

Authors often get confused about the different stages and people involved in getting a book published. It’s not as simple as “Write a book – get it published!” but nor should it be so complicated that only the professionals understand it.

I work with a lot of people who are indie-publishing or self-publishing their book, however these stages will be roughly the same whether you’re publishing in the traditional route with a publisher, or going it alone. When the publisher gets involved can also vary.

What are the processes my book needs to go through?

Here are the basic stages for your book.

  1. Plan
  2. First draft
  3. Second draft
  4. Beta readers
  5. Third draft
  6. Edit (usually in Word)
  7. Fourth draft and preparation for publishing (layout artist, cover art, blurb)
  8. Proofread (usually in PDF or another file format from which the book will actually be produced)
  9. Publish

Note: You might have a substantive edit before or just after the beta readers; if you have one after that stage, it’s an idea to add another beta read in afterwards, which would give you this:

  1. Plan
  2. First draft
  3. Second draft
  4. Beta readers
  5. Third draft
  6. Substantive edit (usually in Word)
  7. Fourth draft
  8. More beta readers or the same ones again
  9. Fifth draft
  10. Edit (usually in Word)
  11. Sixth draft and preparation for publishing (layout artist, cover art, blurb)
  12. Proofread (usually in PDF or another file format from which the book will actually be produced)
  13. Publish

One last point: it’s better to have your edit and proofread done by different people: just as it’s hard to edit your own work, it’s hard not to miss things if you’re proofreading something you edited. See the link below for how to handle the style sheet you will need.

Other useful articles

The different kinds of editing and proofreading (it’s biased towards fiction but also works for non-fiction):

All about beta readers and what to ask them

Style sheets to pass from editor to proofreader

How to request a quotation from an editor

Negotiating and booking in your project

I hope you’ve found this very quick guide to the process of editing and proofreading useful. If you have, please share this article using the buttons below, or leave me a comment. Thank you!
 
 

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Can I print a Word document to PDF and retain the tracked changes?

If you want to print or save a Word document to change it into a PDF, and you have Tracked Changes showing in the Word document, will those tracked changes still show up in the PDF?

I needed to check this myself this morning, so now I’ve confirmed what happens, I thought I’d write a quick article about it, on the grounds that if I’ve had to check, someone else will need to, too (bloggers: this is a good way to inspire blog posts if you’re lacking ideas!).

So here is the definitive answer to the question Can I save a Word document as a PDF and keep the tracked changes showing.

Why save a Word document with tracked changes into a PDF?

This came about because I was discussing plagiarism with a colleague and explaining what I do if I need to confirm from a client’s supervisor that it’s OK to make as many changes as I’m making to their text. I mentioned that sometimes I will send over a copy of the work so far, and sometimes I’ll go as far as to turn the Word document into a PDF so it can’t be altered between me and the supervisor. But will the tracked changes still show up?

Proof that tracked changes still show on the PDF

So here’s my Word document, complete with tracked changes (make sure these are showing):

A word document with tracked changes

Just a reminder that in the newer versions of Word you can save to a PDF automatically without having to go through third-party software. Choose File – Save As then drop the file type down to choose PDF:

Save Word as PDF

Then when you open it in your PDF reader (I use PDF-XChange Viewer), there are all the tracked changes!

Tracked changes showing in PDF

So, if you want to preserve your tracked changes so they can’t be, um, well, changed, printing to PDF will give you an image of them you can share.

I hope you’ve found this useful – do click the Like or Share buttons or comment if I’ve helped you out!

Please note: these tips work for Microsoft Word version 2007 and upwards. They are not guaranteed or tested for Word for Mac.

Other track changes articles on this website

Track changes 1 – why use it, where can you find it, what can you do with it?

Track changes 2 – customising Track Changes

Track changes 3 – working with a document with tracked changes

How do I accept one reviewer’s changes?

Why are my tracked changes changing colour?

How do I get rid of tool tips on tracked changes?

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in Copyediting, proofreading, Skillset, Word

 

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Student at risk of plagiarism 2: What do you do when the editor risks changing too much of the text?

text with tracked changesPlagiarism involves passing someone else’s work off as your own. There are two kinds of plagiarism: there’s plagiarism done by the student when they don’t reference or credit a quotation or theory and are therefore effectively using someone else’s work without credit (which I’ve written about here). The second kind of plagiarism, which we’re talking about here, is where an editor has done so much work on a student text that they’re almost a second author, and the student is then at risk of passing the editor’s work off as their own.

I have written this series of articles for editors who are working with documents produced by students: an essay, thesis, dissertation or article, for example.

Let’s have a look at the levels of change an editor might make when working with student materials and how to tell when the editor is at risk of plagiarism from the level of work they’re doing on the text.

Usually when working on student essays, dissertations and theses, I will come across issues with the language and writing:

  • Uses capitals and hyphens inconsistently
  • Uses British and American spellings (or British s and (Oxford) z spellings) inconsistently
  • Uses inverted commas for quotations and scare quotes inconsistently
  • Uses the wrong tenses
  • Uses the wrong agreements (he have, they has)
  • Includes typos (form/from)
  • Has a sentence structure which is confused BUT I can tell they understand what they’re writing about and have made a good attempt to write that in English (English is not the first language of most of my student clients)

There’s an accompanying issue with the reference list or bibliography, so a minor issue would be:

  • Some mistakes and inconsistencies in the bibliography, where I’m not changing more than about one in ten entries in a major way (turning book titles into italics, etc.) or one in five in a minor way (full stops after initials, making spacing of initials consistent)

In these cases I will (with Track Changes turned on, of course!) and make it all consistent and amend the tense, agreement, typo or sentence.

And, if I find

  • A theory or term which is not explained
  • A sentence which can be taken in one of two ways, and it’s not clear what it means
  • A sentence or paragraph which is jumbled or confused and I can’t make it out

I will leave the sentence and add a comment explaining that the term needs to be explained, what the ambiguous sentence could mean or that I can’t understand it and the student needs to rewrite it.

And if there’s

  • A reference that’s missing publisher or place, journal volume, etc. information

I will add a note that the student needs to check and add the relevant information

It’s probably worth mentioning here that I offer to re-check up to 10% of the total word count after rewrites; this feels fair to my student clients and I’ve never had anyone ask me to re-check anything like that amount of text.

But what if it’s more major changes and the resulting risk of plagiarism?

More major issues would include

  • Confused use of terms which clearly show a lack of understanding of the subject (this sounds nebulous but jumps out in real-life examples, none of which I can obviously show you!)
  • Garbled results which don’t make sense
  • Many sentences which aren’t at all clear or, if I can guess the meaning, would need a complete rewrite to make them at all clear – and I start having to do that
  • A completely chaotic bibliography with no attempt to make it consistent or match it to the style guide which needs work on almost every entry

If any (or all) of these are present in the text, and I’m making a lot of comments on the text, plus a lot of the changes in the above sections, I will get to a certain point (usually 1,000-2,000 words in), have a look at what I’ve done, and make a judgement as to whether I’m risking changing too much.

It’s all done in Tracked Changes so surely I’m not writing it for them!

Yes, we do everything in Tracked Changes as standard, and I have standard text which asks the client to examine all changes and decide if they accept or reject them. However, there is an “Accept All Changes” button and with the best editor will in the world, some students will just press that. How much of the work then is theirs?

What do I do if I find I’m doing too much on a text?

I want to highlight here that this is often not the student’s intentional fault. This applies to referencing, too, and it’s often to do with the learning they’ve received in their home country, the pressures of having to write in their non-first language, and pressures from home around getting this UK or US degree and bringing that knowledge home. But I believe we have a duty to help the student not plagiarise. In the case of referencing, this will get caught by software used by the universities such as TurnItIn. In the case of our work, it might not be so detectable, although a supervisor presented with perfect English by a student who struggles to write in English may be suspicious. We want to help our clients and make sure they don’t get accused of something they didn’t intend to do.

Sending feedback to the student and their supervisor

It’s at this point that my articles on the two kinds of plagiarism coincide. if you’re following along with this series in real time, I’ve already written about what to feed back to the student and their supervisor and how to do it, so as to avoid making you wait for the punchline by doing it the other way round.

So to find out my good practice in contacting students and their supervisors over the risk of plagiarism, please see this article.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 1: What do you do when a text isn’t referenced properly?

Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Sending feedback to your student client and their supervisor

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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Student at risk of plagiarism 1: What to do when the student hasn’t referenced their text correctly

text with tracked changesPlagiarism is the act of passing someone else’s work off as your own. There are two kinds of plagiarism in student work: one is plagiarism done directly by a student, where they fail to reference or credit a quotation or theory and are effectively using someone else’s work without credit. The second kind of plagiarism is where an editor has done so much work on a student text that they’re almost a second author, and the student is then at risk of passing the editor’s work off as their own.

This article is written for editors who are working with student texts, whether that’s essays, dissertations, theses or articles for publication.

Let’s have a look at the levels of risk of plagiarism and an example of good practice when working with student materials when the editor is at risk of plagiarism from the level of work they’re doing on the text.

Often when working on student essays, dissertations and theses, I will come across a small example of a risk of plagiarism. This could include

  • A statement such as “researchers have found that” before an assertion, without a reference to who has found this information
  • A reference not being included after a quotation, where most of the quotations are referenced correctly
  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas, even if it’s got a reference after it, but this is an anomaly in an otherwise well-referenced document
  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas AND it hasn’t got a reference after it, but this is an anomaly in an otherwise well-referenced document

I count these as minor infringements and I will just mark these up with a comment asking the student to provide the reference, add inverted commas or rewrite the sentences in their own words.

I should mention here that I offer to re-check up to 10% of the total word count after rewrites; this feels fair to my student clients and I’ve never had anyone ask me to re-check as much as that: if it happens, it’s usually about 1%.

Red flags in referencing

Unfortunately, I do come across student texts (and this is not limited to students: have encountered web text and even books lifted from other sources without reference) where the following occurs:

  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas, even if it’s got a reference after it, happening multiple times
  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas AND it hasn’t got a reference after it, and this is happening multiple times, even pages and pages worth of direct quotations from other sources
  • A section in a different colour or font where no attempt has been made to hide this has come from elsewhere
  • A section where the client has either added a comment or put it in a particular colour and asked me to rewrite what is clearly a direct quote from elsewhere (this is thankfully rare)

How do I tell when something’s a direct quote that the student hasn’t either referenced or written themselves?

  • The standard of English changes, sometimes subtly, sometimes very obviously
  • The type of English changes (US to UK, s to z spellings, and vice versa)
  • Referencing within that section is markedly different to that within the student’s own work
  • It’s in a different colour or font

How do I check if text is not written by the student?

Google is my friend here? I take a sentence, pop it in Google and see where it came from. My suspicion that it’s someone else’s text are usually correct.

Sending feedback to the student and their supervisor

I try to be kind here. The student may be under a lot of pressure, or may not have understood how to do referencing. I will guide them to ask their supervisor or any support they have in the department or their university library.

It’s at this point that my articles on the two kinds of plagiarism coincide. if you’re following along with this series in real time, I’ve already written about what to feed back to the student and their supervisor and how to do it, so as to avoid making you wait for the punchline by doing it the other way round.

So to find out my good practice in contacting students and their supervisors over the risk of plagiarism, please see this article.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 2: What do you do when the editor is at risk of changing too much?

Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Sending feedback to your student client and their supervisor

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Giving feedback to your student client and their supervisor

text with tracked changesWhat do you do when you detect a risk of plagiarism in a student text and you need to give feedback to the student and possibly their supervisor? How do you stop a student feeling accused? How do you get confirmation from the supervisor that what you’re doing is acceptable by their institution?

In this post for editors working with student texts, I share the good practice I’ve developed over my ten years in operation when dealing with the two kinds of plagiarism I encounter in student work:

  • Plagiarism conducted directly by a student who does not reference or credit quotations, results and theories (therefore passing other people’s work off as their own)
  • Plagiarism that arises when you as the editor are doing far too many corrections and effectively risking co-writing the text (therefore risking the student passing your work off as their own)

I will write about these two risks of plagiarism in two further articles which I will link to here when they’re published. I’m publishing this one first to avoid leaving readers who are reading along dangling, as this article covers both types of plagiarism and is referenced at the ends of both articles as the end point of their processes.

What do I do if I encounter or risk enabling plagiarism?

Once I’ve realised a text is at risk of plagiarism (and in my experience, both kinds often come together in a text), I will follow these levels of action/escalation:

  1. Stop working on the text*
  2. Contact the student client immediately
    1. Explain what the problem is
    2. Offer solutions the client can use (go through the text, find where you’re missing references or need to show direct quotes/reference and insert those, etc.)
  3. The student client will get back to me with one of two answers
    1. “I will amend the text and send it back to you”. If that happens, great, and if they’ve done it correctly, I carry on working on the text
    2. “It’s OK, just rewrite the direct quotes”/”Just make the changes to my sentences, my tutor says it’s OK”. If that happens, I go to step 4
  4. It’s time to stop the work or ask for contact from the supervisor:
    1. If 3. i has occurred, I reiterate that the student must write direct quotes in their own words and I can’t do that for them. If an impasse is reached, I state I cannot work on the text any more and invoice the student client.**
    2. If 3. ii has occurred, I ask the student to provide me with evidence that their supervisor has approved the level of work I need to do on the text
      1. I send the student the text that I have amended so far, asking them to present that to their supervisor (I might in an extreme case save this as a PDF to prevent them accepting all changes and then just going and using someone else for the next part)
      2. I ask for either a letter from the tutor on headed paper OR a direct email from the supervisor instructing me to do this work. I leave this up to the student to do. This helps them not feel I’m reporting on them (as I say in Part 2, this is often down to stress, pressure or lack of understanding rather than explicit wrongdoing) and it saves me having to try to contact the supervisor myself.
  5. Depending on what I hear from the supervisor, conclude the work relationship or continue working:
    1. If I hear back from the supervisor in the negative, I stop work, invoice the client and keep the letter from the supervisor for a period of time
    2. If I hear back that I can continue, I continue with the work, present it to the client and save the tutor’s letter with the work files

* I have a statement in my terms and conditions that I will invoice for any work done before I detect plagiarism. I charge by the word, so I check the word count and invoice based on that.

** I will always suggest to the student that they contact their student support services, often attached to their department or library, who can give help with language issues and referencing procedures. I see my role as helping, not blaming or punishing the student for their mistake.

This article has outlined what I do to provide feedback to the student client and their supervisor when I encounter plagiarism in student work. My resources this website about plagiarism are listed below. Do comment if you use another good method or have used this one with success.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 1: When the referencing is missing

Student at risk of plagiarism 2: When the editor is at risk of doing too much

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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What is the process once I’ve accepted your quotation?

We’ve looked in previous posts about the process of requesting a quotation from an editor in Working with an editor 1: requesting a quotation and going through the negotiation process in Working with an editor 2: negotiating and booking in. Now it’s time to look at the last part of the process – what happens once the job is confirmed and live.

All the details should have been covered off now …

  • We have agreed the price per 1,000 words or project price.
  • We have agreed the turnaround and/or deadline (if you don’t have the full project ready, I will give you a turnaround quotation, so I will complete the work within 14 days of receipt, etc. We have usually agreed a vague delivery date if not a fixed one by now.
  • If you wanted a sample edit done, I’ve done that and you’ve agreed that’s how you want to work.
  • You’ve read and accepted my terms and conditions.

What happens next?

1. You let me know about when you’ll have the full text ready for me and I’ll book you a slot. There are no obligations even then, although I do hope you will let me know if there’s any delay or you need to cancel. Lots of people have difficulty with their time scales, whether students, independent writers or journalists, so I understand and be flexible up to a point.

3. When it’s time, send me your manuscript and have a rest from it while I work on it (but be around in case I need to ask any questions).

4. I will do your edit and return the text and a style sheet detailing decisions I’ve made on anything that has different options (e.g. hyphenation, capitalisation, etc.) (see more on style sheets: What is a style sheet?)

5. You will confirm receipt and look through my changes, address those and any comments I’ve given. If you have questions or rewrites, I accept one batch of queries and 10% of the total word count in rewrites as part of the service with no additional charge.

6. I will send you my invoice and you will pay it within 30 days.

And that’s it! It all looks simple but I’m aware that if you’ve not used an editor before, this is an unknown process, and I hope I’ve made it easier for you.

Other useful articles on this website

Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?

Working with an editor 2: negotiating and booking in

Do I need editing or proofreading?

Working with Tracked Changes

What is a style sheet?

On completion of your edit, will my manuscript be ready for publication?

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Copyediting

 

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Track changes – how do I get rid of the text box that appears when I hover over words in a Word document?

How do you get rid of document tooltips? How do you stop the little text boxes appearing when you hover over deleted or added words in Word. I had a query about this in a comment and thought that it warranted some screen shots and instructions.

What’s the problem here? What do you mean by these text boxes?

When you’ve worked with Track Changes enabled in Word, as well as showing you what your editor or collaborator has deleted or inserted into the text in red and with bubbles in the margin, you also get text boxes when you hover over the change. Here’s what that looks like:

Some people get annoyed by this, so here’s how to turn it off.

How do I turn off document tooltips aka those little text boxes that show me what I’ve deleted?

This process works for Word 2010 and later versions:

Click File on the far left of the tabs and then Options:

Once in Options, choose Display:

The Display dialogue box has an option to Show document tooltips on hover. Untick this by clicking in the square, then choose OK.

Now you won’t see those boxes in the document.

However, it does NOT turn off the useful tooltips in the rest of Word – so if you hover over any of the items on the Ribbon, you will still see the usual tooltips there.

If you’re using Word 2007, click the round button in the top left corner, choose Word Options at the very bottom of the dialogue box, then as above, select Display and untick Show document tooptips on hover.

Please note: these tips work for Microsoft Word version 2007 and upwards. They are not guaranteed or tested for Word for Mac.

Other track changes articles on this website

Track changes 1 – why use it, where can you find it, what can you do with it?

Track changes 2 – customising Track Changes

Track changes 3 – working with a document with tracked changes

How do I accept one reviewer’s changes?

Why are my tracked changes changing colour?

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2019 in Copyediting, proofreading, Skillset, Word

 

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