How comments in Word work

Learn how to add comments in Word, how to remove comments in Word, print without comments, change font size of comments, etc.

In Word, you can use comments to add notes to the document content. Comments are saved with the document and travel with the document if you share it with others. Comments are especially useful in the editing and reviewing process of a Word document. Different people can add comments and reply to other people’s comments. When finished, all comments can easily be deleted.

Word has a number of built-in tools dedicated to comments. In this article, you will learn how comments in Word work and how to use the comment tools. The basic information about comments applies to both the built-in comment functionality and the functionality of the DocTools CommentManager add-in.

The DocTools CommentManager add-in makes it faster and easier to manage comments in Word. In addition, the add-in lets you add automatic comment numbers, review comments in Word from one place, rank comments by importance, extract all comments to either Word or Excel, create inline comments for instructions and help, etc. DocTools CommentManager add-in is completely compatible with Word's own comment features.

The information in this article applies to Word 2013, Word 2016, Word 2019, and Word for Microsoft 365 on PC/Windows. Part of the information in this article also applies to Word 2010 and earlier versions but the comment tools and the ways to access them differ.

Quick Navigation

Where to find the comment tools in Word

You will find the dedicated comment tools on the Review tab in the Ribbon.

  • The Comments group on the Review tab includes tools that are dedicated to comments.
  • The Tracking group on the Review tab includes tools that are used both in relation to comments and tracked changed. In this group, you will find tools to use for changing how comments are displayed.
The comment tools in Word are found on the Review tab

Figure 1. The built-in comment tools in Word are found on the Review tab.

How to add comments in Word

Word lets you add two levels of comments. First-level comments and replies to first-level comments.

You can add first-level comments in Word either via commands in the Ribbon or by using a keyboard shortcut. To can add a reply to a comment directly from the comment. Read on below.

How to insert a comment in Word

Word lets you view documents in a number of ways. In relation to comments, Print Layout view gives you the best overview. You can, for example, switch view from View tab in the Ribbon > Views group. You can also press Alt+Ctrl+P to switch to Print Layout view.

The built-in functionality in Word lets you add/insert comments from two different places. To insert a comment in Word:

  1. Select the text you want to comment.
       
    The selected text will be marked as the comment scope. If no text is selected, Word will mark the preceding word, if any, as the comment scope.
       
    To make it as easy for other users to understand your comment, make sure to select precisely the text that the comment refers to instead of, for example, selecting entire paragraphs.
  2. Follow step 2a, 2b, or 2c:
    a. Select the Review tab in the Ribbon > Comments group > New Comment
    OR
    b. Select the Insert tab in the Ribbon > Comments group > Comment
    OR
    c. Press the keyboard shortcut Alt+Ctrl+M.
       
    The inserted comment appears in the markup area (or balloon area) in the margin or in the Reviewing Pane depending on your settings for display of comments. See How to show comments in Word below. See Figure 2 below.
  3. In the inserted comment, type the comment text.
  4. When finished, press the Esc key to return to the document text or click in the document.

Note that pressing Esc will select the text you marked in step 1 above. If you have DocTools CommentManager, pressing Esc will position the insertion point after the scope you selected, ready for you to continue typing without first deselecting the comment scope.

If you are using the DocTools CommentManager add-in, you can insert comments via DocTools tab > CommentManager group > Insert Comment.

NOTE: Comments in Word are stored in the documents. A comment can be edited by anyone who has access to edit the document and not only by the original author who inserted the comment.

How to add comments in Word – A new comment has just been added, ready for typing comment text

Figure 2. A new comment has just been added, ready for typing comment text. Note that if Simple Markup is selected in the Tracking group on the Review tab, the commented text (comment scope) will only be marked by a color when you have selected the comment in the markup area. If your document is in Draft view instead of Print Layout view, the comment will appear in the Reviewing Pane

Picture shown in comment by default

Figure 3. By default, Word shows pictures by comments. You can turn off the pictures.

NOTE: By default, Word shows pictures by comments in the balloon area. You can toggle off/on the pictures by right-clicking in a comment and selecting Hide Pictures by Comments (will change the label to Show Pictures by Comments).

Pictures are turned off in all the following illustrations in this article. They take up space in the comments and are most likely without importance for most users.

How to add a comment as a reply to another comment

Word lets you add two levels of comments. First-level comments and replies to first-level comments.

To add a reply to an existing comment:

  1. Click in the comment text of the comment you are going to reply to.
  2. Click the Reply icon below the comment text (See Figure 5 below).
    OR
    Right-click in the comment and select Reply to Comment.
  3. In the inserted comment reply, type the comment text.
  4. When finished, press the Esc key to return to the document text or click in the document.

Replies to comments are indented below the comment to which they belong. You can add more replies to the same comment. All replies will appear on the same level – they will all be shown as replies to the first-level comment even if a reply is actually written as a reply to another reply.

To add a reply to a comment, click the Reply icon

Figure 5A. Click the Reply icon to add a reply to an existing comment.

A new comment has been added as a reply to an existing comment.

Figure 5B. A new comment has been added as a reply to an existing comment.

If a page has too many comments for Word to have room for all the comment text, the comments will be collapsed. A comment will expand when you click the comment.

Note that Word 2013 and later versions do not number comments when shown in the balloon area. Only if you view comments and revisions inline, numbers are shown together with the author initials. Syntax for comments numbers shown inline: NN#, where NN are the initials and # the index number of the comment, counted from the start of the document. Example: LF5. You will not be able to see on the number whether a comment is a first-level comment or a reply to another comment.

The DocTools CommentManager add-in lets you easily add automatic numbering to comments when shown in the balloon area. The numbering will both tell you the comment number and whether it is a reply to another comment or a first-level comment.

How to edit a comment in Word

To edit an existing comment in Word:

  1. Make sure the comment is shown. See How to show comments in Word.
  2. Click in the comment and add, delete, or modify the comment text.

How to mark a comment as resolved

Word lets you mark a comment as resolved. This will change the font color(s) of the comments to a pale look. Marking comments as resolved may help you keep track of which comments still need attention.

To mark a comment as resolved:

  1. Click in the comment text of the comment you are going to mark as resolved.
  2. Click the Resolve icon below the comment text (see Figure 5 above).
    OR
    Right-click in the comment and select Resolve Comment.

The Resolve icon changes to Reopen. If needed, you can turn off the resolved status again by clicking Reopen or by right-clicking in the comment and selecting Reopen Comment.

What to do if the Resolve icon is grayed out

You may experience that the Resolve icon and the Resolve Comment command are grayed out, indicating that the commands are disabled and cannot be used.

What causes the problem?

The Resolve feature was introduced in Word 2013. The Resolve feature is grayed out under the following conditions:

  • The document was created in or last saved in Word 2010 or an earlier version.
  • The document is in compatibility mode.
    If the document is in compatibility mode, newer Word features cannot be used. You will see the text (Compatibility Mode) after the file name in the Title bar of the Word window.
How to solve the problem

You can convert the document to allow all features in you Word version to be available. Use one of the following methods to update the document to your version of Word. This will enable the Resolve feature:

  • METHOD 1: Select File > Info > click Convert. Save the document.
  • METHOD 2: Select Save As (F12). In the Save As dialog box, turn off the option Maintain compatibility with previous versions of Word. Click Save. See the illustration below.

 IMPORTANT: Conversion of a document may result in changes to the formatting of the document, depending how it was set up. For examples, the widths of tables created in Word 2010 and earlier may change when converted to Word 2013 format or later (due to changes of how cell margins are handled).