Quantifying Revisions

Today I would like to have a brief chat with you about quantifying revisions. It’s great to say we went through a manuscript from top to bottom and thoroughly scoured it. Generally, we work hard and that’s all anyone needs to know.

But what if we want some numeric measurement of what we did, even if it’s just out of personal curiosity?

Tools like Scrivener might already give you the difference in greater detail, but I’m not experienced with it. I’m relatively lo-fi in comparison, just using Microsoft Word for most of my needs; however, Word has some helpful tools to quantify differences when you keep your drafts in separate documents.

Let’s use The Masked Queen’s Lament as an example, because I zeroed in on one necessary change when I went back and fixed it, but I did much more than that. How much more? Well, according to Word:

A comparison panel suggests 853 revisions between the first release and the re-release.
A comparison panel suggests 853 revisions between the first release and the re-release.

The image shows many more tools for comparing the differences line by line, but I only wanted one figure to summarize it for you. According to Word, that one number is 853 revisions.

There are also online tools to run a “diff”, or a comparison between two text documents. One such tool is diffchecker.com.

It gives a marginally different result in a slightly expanded way:

Diffchecker suggests 419 removals and 457 additions.
Diffchecker suggests 419 removals and 457 additions.

In this case, a different algorithm spotted 419 removals (deletions) and 457 additions. The sum of those is slightly larger than what Word gave us, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Numbers, of course, give us quantity. Quality is something else. These measurement tools aren’t going to replace a human who can tell you how one single change fixed a phrase that had been nonsense due to a word omission or a typo. They don’t describe how things are better. Their sole job is to spot the difference.

Have you ever tracked your manuscript revisions in a quantifiable manner? Have you found it practically useful in a particular context, or were you, like me, just curious? Feel free to leave a comment.