Displaying Highlights for Commented Text

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated July 4, 2020)


When Jodie selects some text and then inserts a comment in her document, the selected text is highlighted in yellow to let her know that the comment applies to that text. Recently, though, the yellow highlighting has vanished. The comments are still there; Jodie can see them when she chooses to view the markup. She wonders why the yellow highlighting disappeared and what she can do to get it back.

When you insert a comment in a document, how that comment is displayed depends on your display settings for markup. (Comments are just one element of what is collectively known as "markup." Another, perhaps more understandable, are edits made while Track Changes is turned on.) Normally, Comments are shown with a line, anchored text, and the comment itself. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The normal way that a comment is displayed on-screen.

If your comments don't display in this manner, the first thing you want to do is to check how your markup is being displayed. You do this on the Review tab of the ribbon, in the Tracking group. Note the Display for Review drop-down list, at the upper-right corner of the Tracking group. In Figure 1, this is set to All Markup, so the comments are displayed as expected. If this drop-down list is set to Simple Markup, then your comments are displayed differently. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Comments display different when you choose to display Simple Markup.

In this case, the solution is simple—just change the Display for Review drop-down list to All Markup.

If this still doesn't do it for you, it is very possible that you have the display of comments turned off entirely. You can check this by again displaying the Review tab of the ribbon and clicking the Change Tracking Options tool in the Tracking group. (This is the small icon at the bottom-right of the Tracking group.) Word then displays the Track Changes Options dialog box. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The Track Changes Options dialog box.

Near the upper-left corner of the dialog box, make sure the Comments check box is selected. (This check box controls whether comments are displayed along with markup or not.) Now, when you click OK to close the Track Changes Options dialog box, your comments should be fully visible, as you expect.

Well, there is one more caveat here—while your comments may be visible, the anchor text for the comments, the line for the comments, and the balloon outlines may not be in the color you want. In Figure 1, all of these elements are shown in red. If you want them in a different color (such as yellow, as Jodie mentioned), then you need to perform just a bit more configuration.

Start by again clicking the Change Tracking Options tool to display the Track Changes Options dialog box (Figure 3). Then click the Advanced Options button; Word displays the Advanced Track Changes Options dialog box. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4. The Advanced Track Changes Options dialog box.

The control you want to work with in this dialog box is the Comments drop-down list, in the Markup area near the top of the dialog box. This is where you set the color that should be used for displaying comments. Use the drop-down to indicate the color you want, and then close all the open dialog boxes. Your comments should now display exactly as you would like.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13779) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and Word in Microsoft 365.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 1 + 3?

2022-02-14 16:44:42


I have tried doing this, but when I click advanced options, there is no "comments" section. Insertions, deletions, changed lines, that's it. I get an idiotic greyed out line, and only when I hover over the idiotic comment on the right, does it highlight in the previous colour. This happened suddenly just this morning, when I reopened a document. It was fine before.

2021-12-07 13:38:04

Nicolas Karps

I am having trouble with the combination of highlights and comments. At first when I was highlighting things in word and then adding comments, the original highlight stayed in the document, but now the comment "highlight" greys out my original highlight. Is there any way for me to have my original highlights still appear not greyed out in the main document?

2020-07-06 09:38:56

Steven J. Van Steenhuyse

This tip must apply only to versions after Word 2010. I use Word 2010, and "Simple Markup" is not a choice; nor does the "Track Changes Options" dialog exist (most of those options are available as a drop-down under "Show Markup."

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