This is a topic where I seem to differ from some other editors, so it’s certainly not a universal rule.

I strongly believe that edits I make to an author’s work need to be tracked or otherwise reported to the author. I cringe every time I hear an author say that their editor made changes to their work without running it past them or “hid” the edits during the editing process. I realize this is known to happen in publishing houses, where the editors sometimes have the ability to overrule the authors completely, but I’ve been told stories of it being done by freelance editors as well.

This goes completely against what I consider the role of an editor to be — to work WITH an author to make their work the best it can be. At the end, though, the work belongs to the author, not me. I can make suggestions, correct issues, and offer education, but I don’t own the decision about what to do with that input.

Because I believe this, I also believe in being completely transparent to my authors when I make edits. I typically always leave track changes on (I typically edit in Word) so the author can see edits. I use the comments feature in Word to ask questions, make suggestions, or explain my thoughts about why I’m making an edit. If I have to make bulk changes like formatting, styles, or spacing changes, I will often turn track changes off to make those, then include that bulk change in my editorial cover letter. The only reason I turn track changes off is because Word notes each individual change and the amount of noise becomes unwieldy.

I want my authors to see all the changes. I want them to know that I won’t arbitrarily change things without telling them.

So, if you are working with an editor, ask the editor when they will track edits and when they just make them without tracking.