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Creating documents: a Practical Guide

Reviewing and finalising

Reviewing and finalising

So you've written your what? On this page, we'll look at some of the final steps when creating digital documents, including combining multiple files into a single document, checking accessibility and anonymising files, and using the Review tab in Word. We'll also think about when we leave text processors behind: exporting to other file formats and printing your document.

Using Review features

Once you've finished writing your first draft of a document, you often need to review it in various ways, like checking spelling, word count, and accessibility, adding comments to make changes or getting feedback from others.

Both Word and Google Docs have built-in features to help with this. In Word, these are mostly on the Review tab, whereas in Google Docs they are mostly in the Tools menu.

The review tab in Word has a range of options for proofing, speech and accessibility, language, comments, and tracking changes.

Checking for spelling and synonyms

You might have spell checking turned on whilst you're typing your document, or you might prefer to check at the end. Using spell check and grammar features can help when you're writing up and reviewing your document, though you will need to proofread your work carefully even if you use these, as they can miss things (and won't spot typing errors that are real words, just not the word you meant!).

Word logo

In Word, the Review tab has options for checking your spelling and grammar suggestions. On Windows you'll find a Check Document option on the Proofing section, and on a Mac there's an 'Editor. Check for Spelling, Grammar and Writing Issues' button. These open options for checking any spelling and grammar suggestions.

You can also use the Thesaurus button on the Review tab on both Windows and Mac to search for synonyms if when you're reviewing your document, you find yourself not quite using the right word, or repeating a word often that could be replaced with a similar word. Bear in mind that the words suggested by the thesaurus may not have exactly the same meaning as the word you've used, so check that your document still has the meaning you intend and use the clearest term wherever possible.

Google Docs logo

In Google Docs, you can choose whether you get spelling and grammar suggestions as you type your document by going to the Tools menu, then Spelling and grammar, and clicking to toggle the options for whether these are checked by the computer. If you click on 'Spelling and grammar check', you will get a check of your document at that moment, with a pop up message about any errors found and suggested changes.

Checking word count

Word logo

Word displays the word count of your document at the bottom of the window when you are editing. Highlighting text will also show the word count of the highlight text as an amount 'of' the entire word count. If you click on the word count, you'll also see a count of pages, characters, paragraphs, and lines (and can choose to include or exclude footnotes and endnotes from this count).

Google Docs logo

In Google Docs you can check the word count from Tools > Word count, which will show a page, word, and character count. If you tick 'Display word count while typing', the word count will appear on your screen whilst working (though once you close the Google Doc, this option will be deselected and the word count won't show when you open the document again).

'Track Changes' and suggestions

Word logo

Track Changes in Word allows you to add changes and suggestions to the text of a document, which will be marked and viewable by others. Microsoft refer to these changes as 'Markup', which is useful to know if you need to alter any settings.

To turn on, go to Review > Track Changes. Once enabled, making any changes to the text will be shown in a different colour. Any text that is deleted will still show, but with a line through the text. To turn Track Changes off, just press on the same button again in the Review tab.

To more easily see all of the markup that's been added to a document change the 'Simple Markup' option to All Markup so any changes are shown next to the edited text.

'All markup selected in Review tab

See also Microsoft's own support page on Track Changes.

If you have a document that has suggestions (markup) added to it, you can then 'accept or 'reject' this markup to turn it into normal text, or remove it. Place your cursor in some text that has suggestions, and use the buttons in the 'Changes' section of the Review tab to Accept or Reject changes. Using the arrows beneath these buttons gives you the option to take apply that action to all markup in one go.

Google Docs logo

Rather than making direct edits to a document, you can instead make 'suggestions' for changes to text. You'll need to have either Editor or Commenter access to a document. Any text that you add or remove to the document will be recorded in a different colour and marked as a 'comment' at the side of the document. Other editors can then choose to accept or reject these suggestions.

To enter 'Suggesting' mode, go to View > Mode > Suggesting.

Accessibility checking

When you're finishing a document to share or send to others, it's important to think about the accessibility of that document. A user viewing your document may be using assistive technologies to view it, such as a screen reader or other accessibility tools. Both word processors have the option to use features that support accessibility such as heading styles on each heading in a document, and alternative text (known as 'alt text') for conveying what is portrayed in an image as text, plus many other features. See our Accessibility Skills Guide and Creating accessible documents page.

Microsoft Word has a built-in Accessibility Checker that can check a document to ensure accessibility features have been used for all content in your document. For Google Docs, the university has a tool automatically installed called Grackle. Both will return some results on how accessible your document currently is, along with suggestions on how you could improve your document to work successfully with assistive technologies.

Microsoft Accessibility Checker (Microsoft Word)

In Microsoft Word, go to Review > Check Accessibility. A sidebar will appear, giving recommendations for any changes by identifying each element in your document. Clicking on the name of each element will provide instructions below on how to improve it. If you haven't used any styles in your document, this may not be necessarily picked up by the Accessibility Checker, so you may need to check this yourself.

See also Microsoft's own guide on the Microsoft accessibility checker.

Grackle (Google Docs)

Grackle is an extension already installed by the university for Google Workspace, which provides an accessibility checker for Google Docs, Google Slides and Google Sheets.

While signed into Google Docs with your university Google account, you can access Grackle by going to Add-ons > Grackle Docs > Launch. A sidebar will appear showing full checks of features such as images, diagrams, document structure and other content showing if they are currently accessible.

See it in action in this video on using Grackle.

Combining documents into a final document

When creating long, complex documents, you might write separate chapters or sections in separate documents, to keep them manageable. Microsoft Word has built-in functionality to allow you to combine individual documents into a single document whilst preserving formatting and other features.


Thinking of just copying and pasting your text out of individual Word documents into your final document? Don't! Doing this can break the formatting of content.

How to combine multiple Word documents into one document (Word only)

To combine your chapters or other documents into one single document, it is easiest to have a template with all your styles set up in, so the styles match on all the documents you've created and the one you're putting all the documents into. Also make sure that you've saved all your individual documents where you can find them. Once they are inserted, any changes made on the newly combined document will not update the individual versions, so be aware of this.

  1. Firstly, create a new document based on your template, and save it with a suitable name.
  2. Next, add any front material you might need to add, e.g. title, abstract, acknowledgements). You can just add headings or leave blank pages at this stage. You can also leave pages blank for a table of content, table of figures, etc if needed. Make sure to separate out these pages using page breaks rather than hitting Enter.
  3. Next, add a break (a section break is usually best) before inserting your first chapter.
  4. To insert a chapter, go to the Insert tab, then the Text section (on a Mac this isn't labelled, but has the 'text box' option within it) and then click on the arrow next to the Object button and select Text from file... (in the screenshots below). Navigate to the file containing your first chapter (or other document that needs to be inserted), select, and choose Insert.
  5. Windows ribbon with a button named Object and using the arrow next to it to select Text from file
    Text from file button on a Mac
    Mac ribbon with a button named Object and using the arrow next to it to select Text from file
    Text from file button on a Mac
  6. Add another section or page break, then insert another chapter, and continue for all chapters or other documents that need to be inserted.

Once you've inserted all your content, you will need to check numbering and any other fields are updated, which is covered below.

Tables of contents, captions, cross-references, and other content after combining documents (Word only)

Once you've combined your document, you will need to construct your tables of contents and any other elements. As long as you've used styles throughout your documents (that use the same levels of heading style for the same levels of heading), you should be able to create an automatic table of contents of all your combined documents. You can do the same for tables of figures and tables.

If you have any captions, cross-references or other automatically generated content in your documents, you may need to update all fields. Select the whole document by holding down CTRL + A (Cmd + A on a Mac), then right click and choose Update Field. This will also update the table of contents if there is one. From this point, you can add more cross references or captions as you need, and can use the same Update Field option to keep the document updated if needed.

Using reference management applications when combining documents (Word only)

If you have inserted automatic citations using a reference management application into your individual documents, you might need to take extra steps to ensure that your reference list/bibliography is in the right place. Check out the Cite page of the Reference Management Practical Guide for more information.

Sharing your document with other people

Once you've created a document, you might want other people to read it. There's a number of things you need to take into consideration, including file formats, anonymising Word documents, unlinking references from a reference management application, and how you're going to share it.

Converting documents to PDF

When you're editing a document, it needs to be in an editable format, like a Word document (.docx) or as a Google Doc. However, when you want to submit or share your final version, you might need it to be in a format that isn't designed for editing, like PDF. Both Word and Google Docs have options for exporting to PDF, though bear in mind that it is difficult to convert documents back to an editable format, especially if they have complex formatting, so only do this for final documents and make sure you always keep an editable version in Word or Google Docs.

Word logo

In Word, go to File > Save as... > Browse. In the Save as type dropdown, change this to PDF.

You'll see that two extra options appear for what quality you wish to save, as either 'Standard' (recommended for printing) or 'Minimum' which will slightly vary on the overall size of the PDF file. You can also use the Options... button to select exactly which pages you would like to convert, along with some other conversion options for optimising images.

If you have any issues with converting a document in this way, you can try the alternative method by going to File > Print, and change the 'Printer' to Microsoft print to PDF. When you press Print, you will see a prompt to select a saving location for the file.

Google Docs logo

Go to File > Download > PDF Document (.pdf). This will download a copy of the PDF file to your computer (usually in your 'Downloads' folder). If you need to share this via Google Drive, you'll need to upload it back onto Google Drive.

Anonymising documents

If you're creating a document that needs to be anonymously submitted (such as for assessments that use anonymous submission on the VLE), you will need to both make sure that you've not used your name anywhere in your document, and that the file itself doesn't have your name listed as the author. See our guidance on how to anonymise your work for more on this process.

Unlinking references from a reference management application

Have you used a reference management application to insert citations into your document?

If so, before you can share your document with anybody else or submit it, you will need to unlink your citations from your own reference library. Otherwise, your citations may break when somebody else opens them on a different computer, without your reference library. The linked Word fields in the document are converted to regular text, meaning they will not longer update and are no longer linked to your reference library.

This process is done using the Word plugin/add-on for whichever reference management application you are using. You will need to make sure you've saved a copy of your document first, to preserve your citations still linked to your reference manager, in case you need to update them in the future. Then you'll need to use the button on the ribbon that says something like 'Export to plain text' / 'Unlink citations'. The exact wording differs for each application, so use the Cite page of the Reference Management Practical Guide to see how to remove the linked fields in your document for EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, and Paperpile.

Methods of sharing documents

There are many different ways you might need to share a document, which will depend on the purpose of sharing and other people's requirements. You'll need to consider:

  • Are you sharing the document for editing, commenting, or reading only
  • Is there any guidance or restrictions on how you need to share the document? E.g. are there assessment guidelines, do you need to upload it somewhere, in a particular format?
  • How will other people be accessing the file? Do you want them to access it in Word/Google Docs specifically?

Documents can be attached to emails, uploaded to the VLE or other places, or shared using Google Drive. You can even share Word documents and PDF files on Google Drive, by uploading them and then using the Share button to set the sharing settings.

When sharing documents to collaboratively edit, Google Docs can be best. You can upload Word documents to Google Drive and then either keep them as a Word document and edit using the Google Docs interface (which may break some of the more advanced Word features) or convert to Google Docs format. This allows for people to edit simultaneously, as well as making it easier to keep track of edits that have been made.

If you need to share multiple documents at once, it might be easiest to ensure they are all in a Google Drive folder, and then share that folder with the relevant people.

Printing your document

Once your document is completed, you might need to print it. Remember to leave plenty of time for printing when factoring in the time it takes to finalise your document, as printing can take longer than expected.

Make sure that you really need to print your document, and consider if another option is more suitable. If you want to send people a finalised version, a PDF might be more useful.

For information on printing on campus, see the IT Services guidance on printing. We'll take a look at checking your printing settings and previewing your document.


If any images or diagrams in your document look blurred or pixel-y when you preview or print them, this might be due to image resolution. Check the size of the original image and if you can get one that has a higher quality.

Choosing your printing settings

Word logo

When you click on the Print button in Word, you will see a preview of your document, so you can check the pages appear roughly as expected. Double check the number of pages it is going to print. You can select the number of copies to print, as well as whether to print all pages, the current pages, or a particular selection. If you're printing a very long document, printing a test page or two first can be a good idea.

You can also choose whether to print in colour or black and white. Bear in mind that if you print in colour, any links in your document might appear blue rather than your text colour.

If you have any comments in your document that you want printed, you will need to ensure that a markup option is chosen in printing settings. Make sure the comments you want printed are shown in your document, then when you click print, click where it says Print all pages (Windows) or Print What: Document (Mac), and change to Print markup (Windows) or Document showing markup (Mac).

Google Docs logo

Google Docs prints using your web browser, so your settings options will depend on which web broswer you are using (e.g. Google Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, etc.). You can print using the Print icon on the toolbar, and then selecting any relevant information. Check the paper size and colour options to ensure you're printing as expected.

Previewing your document before printing

It is important to check your document at full size before printing, and also to check how it will be split across pages. Using print preview features can help ensure your document looks as you expect when you print.

When clicking a Print button, you will typically see a small preview of your document and can click through the pages. This allows you to check that printing will include everything you expect on the correct pages.

Exporting to PDF (using a 'Print to PDF' or 'Save to PDF' option after you click Print) can help you check what your document will look like, especially if you zoom the PDF to 100%.

If you have any images in your document, you might want to trial printing one of those images first, by using the print settings to just print the page the image is on, to check they look as expected when printed.


Reviewing and finalising exercises

Once you've gone over the material on this page, try the following exercises to apply your knowledge:

  1. Add a couple of sentences with purposeful spelling mistakes to your document. Use the spell checker to check for spelling and grammar. Leave one spelling as it is by ignoring the suggestion.
  2. If using Microsoft Word, create two test documents with a couple of sentences in each. Use the option at Insert > Object > Text from file to combine text from one document into the other.
  3. Add a few sentences to a document. Turn on Track Changes (MS Word) or Suggesting mode (Google Docs) and add some suggestions/edits to your sentence. You could also add a comment.