Word: Modern Comments means the price goes up as productivity takes a massive hit

May 4, 2021

Modern Comments (horrible name!) haven’t rolled out to my Word 365 (Windows) version as yet, so today I turned off Updates to prevent them from being installed (File > Account > Update Options button). Of course, I won’t get any other updates either, but at the moment I certainly don’t want the hit to my productivity (or to quotes I’ve already had accepted for upcoming work) that these Modern Comments seem to guarantee. Unfortunately, I can’t stop updates on my anchor client’s laptop, so me turning them off on my own computer may only be a temporary measure.

Hopefully the screams from the writing and editing community, education sector, legal sector etc. will be heard and an option will be given to revert to traditional comments. For details on the changes, see this article and then read the very polite comments below it (polite considering the underlying anger about this change): https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-365-blog/introducing-modern-comments-in-microsoft-word/ba-p/2263182

For me, the main issues with Modern Comments will be:

  • Autocorrect not working
  • Formatting (other than very basic) not working, so no sub/superscripts in comments or highlight colours
  • Spellcheck not working
  • Interface and page layout issues—way too much screen real estate is used; comment icons aren’t attached by a line to the commented on text and float and jump around, etc.
  • Extra keystrokes to add a comment—it seems you can still insert a comment using Ctrl+Alt+M, but you can’t just click out and the comment automatically saves. Instead, you have to click a button to save the comment, otherwise you lose it (update: or use Ctrl+Enter).

One of the long documents I edited was a technical safety case for an oil platform. It was 370 pages and once I was finished I’d added more than 11,000 tracked changes, of which 700+ were comments. Many of those comments were added using AutoCorrect shortcuts, whereby I type a few keystrokes which then automatically expand into a sentence or two. In addition to saving time, these AutoCorrects also mean that my comments are consistent every time, something we ask of our authors. (See: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/word-use-the-power-of-autocorrect-to-save-heaps-of-time/)

Editing this document with Modern Comments would have added at least 10 to 20 hours to the time. I charge by the hour, so yes, I make more money the more hours I work, but I aim to be as efficient as possible and work within budgeted time frames and deadlines. (Edited to add: As an example, one of my AutoCorrect shortcuts is 6 keystrokes, which expands to 162 characters. I could use this shortcut 200 times in the comments in ONE long document—at 6 characters, I’ve typed 1200 characters, but if I have to type the 162 characters out in full every time, that’s some 32,400 characters, an increase of 30,400 characters. This is just one example of the productivity hit.)

I can’t take this hit to my productivity, not to mention the tedium of typing the same comment over and over, nor the extra hours required to edit a document. Extra hours means the client has to pay more, and I have to factor in that extra time if I’m doing a quote (and I can’t increase the estimated hours for quotes already accepted). For those who charge by the word or the job, they’ll have to increase their rates to allow for the extra time that they’ll need to add and edit their comments, otherwise they’ll be losing income.

Microsoft needs to fix this!

More information:

[Links last checked May 2021]


  1. Hi Rhonda

    Thanks for the post about the issues with Modern Comments.

    I’ve got two main questions: Why? What’s the alternative? Are Modern Comments supposed to make Word more attractive to people who would normally use something like Google docs for multi-author documents? I just don’t understand why or how these Modern Comments are better than the current format of Comments in Word. I am so frustrated with MS. They seem to be forgetting those of us who rely on the functionality of Word to work efficiently. I gave up on updating to newer versions of Word once MS made it impossible for me to create and customise my own floating toolbars (oh so much better and quicker than the “QAT” and trying to get customised toolbars to appear in the “Add-in” tab).

    So, let’s complain loud and long about all the functions that have been lost from one version of Word to another but, really, I don’t think anyone at MS is listening. Which leads to Question 2: is there a viable alternative to MS Word? How long before MS “innovates” its way to oblivion and creates the space for someone else to swoop in to cater for those of us who use Word to do more than just type up a document?

    I don’t use Excel all that much, so I haven’t noticed any major changes from version to version. Does anyone know whether Excel users are as frustrated with updates from MS as Word users are?



  2. Hi Natalie

    Unfortunately, there’s no viable alternative that has all the functions that editors, publishers, legal offices etc. need. I’ve been using Google Docs the past few days for school reunion planning (because I need others to collaborate and contribute), and while it has the basic functions, it’s certainly NO challenger to Word for anyone who does anything more complex than apply a few heading styles, insert a basic table etc. It’s a very frustrating program to use for someone who is used to all the functions of Word (e.g. you can’t show formatting marks, there are few styles, can’t repeat header row for tables etc.). Back in the day, the word processor of choice was WordPerfect, but that’s fallen well by the wayside these days. As individuals, we can make out own choice of the software to use, but we will be stymied if we’re trying to fit into a corporate environment where Word and MS Office is prevalent, or we’re trying to deal with publishers who insist we submit manuscripts in Word.


  3. […] wrote a quick summary of the issues with Modern Comments (MC) nearly two weeks ago (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2021/05/04/word-modern-comments-means-the-price-goes-up-as-productiv…). Since then, I’ve allowed my laptop to upgrade to the latest Word 365 (version 2014, build […]

  4. […] chosen to turn off Word updates for now so that I don’t get these Modern Comments, which will affect my productivity. However, I have allowed my laptop to upgrade to the latest version of Word. I did this to test […]

  5. […] chosen to turn off Word updates for now so that I don’t get these Modern Comments, which will affect my productivity. However, I have allowed my laptop to upgrade to the latest version of Word. I did this to test […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: