Making the most of comments in MS Word

Hilary Cadman Update Leave a Comment

Most editors make extensive use of comments in MS Word. Sure, the conversations are a bit one-sided, but adding comments in Word can feel like you’re communicating directly with your client. If you need to clarify why you’ve changed some text, or provide options for revising a particular section, you can tell your client there, on the page, and they can quickly see what you’re referring to. Still, the comments feature has a few drawbacks, and you might assume you’re stuck with these shortcomings, thinking ‘that’s just how it is’. But there are a few tricks you might want to know about that can help to make comments behave how you’d like them to. If you’re keen to make the most of comments in MS Word, read on.

Is the comments text too small in Word?

Sometimes, the text in the comments boxes in MS Word is annoyingly small. Is there a way to make comments easier to read? Well, you could select the text and make it bigger each time, but there’s an easier solution. The size and font of the text used for comments is actually a style within Word, which means you can change it to make the comments in Word more readable. Here is one option for amending the comment style:

  1. Put your cursor in a comment and select the text.
  2. Click on the little arrow at the bottom of the Styles group on the Home tab.

  3. A Styles box will open. If you can see ‘Comment text’ in that list, just click on the drop-down arrow next to that style to modify it, to make it easier to read (e.g. change it from 10 point to 11 point).
  4. If Comment text’ is missing from the list of styles, you can make it appear by doing the following:
    1. Click on the ‘Options’ button at the bottom of the Styles box shown above.
    2. The ‘Style Pane Options’ box will appear – choose ‘All styles’ in the first drop down list and ‘Alphabetical’ in the second, as shown here (also make sure that the 3 boxes below those list are unticked). Click ‘OK’ to apply those changes

    3. Now, if you highlight some text in a comment and then click on the little arrow at the bottom of the Styles group on the Home tab, you should see ‘Comment text’ in the list, and you can amend it as you wish (and the list will now be alphabetical, so will be easier to search).

Note: depending on your version of Word, you may need to fix Balloon style as well as Comments text style, to make the changes stick.

How do I make sure that clients see all the comments in Word?

When you’ve added a lot of comments throughout a document, it’s easy for clients to miss some of them. Your carefully crafted conversation points might remain one-sided.

If I make a lot of comments in a document and a client responds to only some of them, I start wondering what I’ve done wrong. Did the client miss some comments because there were so many? Does the client think some comments don’t need a response?

Of course, to achieve the best result, I need the client’s response to all of my questions. To ensure that clients see and respond to all the comments, I put the comments into a table in a separate document, and send that to the client alongside the edited document. I offer the client the option of responding in the comments table or in the edited document, whichever they prefer.

Here are a couple of ways to put all the comments into a table:

  • use PerfectIt to create a list of comments in Word, then turn them into a table; to do this, you can:
    • use ‘Find and Replace’ to replace double paragraph marks with singles
    • select all the text, then go to ‘Table’ on the ‘Insert’ tab and select ‘Convert text to table’
    • in the table you have created, add a column on the right (for responses) and a header row at the top
    • title the columns ‘Comment’ and ‘Response’ to the header row
  • if you’re comfortable with macros, install the macro ‘CommentCollectTabulated’ from Paul Beverley’s free Macros book to create a well-laid out table in a single step.

Making it easy to view comments in Word can help your client through the editing process.


If you’re keen to learn more about tools to help you save time and improve the quality of your editing, you might like to take a look at my courses in PerfectIt, EndNote and a variety of editing tools. You can also book a coaching call with me to hone your skills in MS Word or EndNote.

Hilary CadmanMaking the most of comments in MS Word

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