How Do I Mark Changes in a Resubmission?

In 2014, NIH published an NIH Guide Notice on Modification to Guidance on Marking Changes in Resubmission Applications. The notice highlights that NIH has removed the requirement to identify ‘substantial scientific changes’ in the text of a Resubmission application by ‘bracketing, indenting, or change of typography’. Please read NOT-OD-15-030 for more information, and find answers to more frequently asked questions regarding application resubmission on the website.


To make it easier for your reviewers to see what has changed in your resubmitted application, mark the substantial scientific changes by bracketing, indenting, or italicizing or changing the font (to one of the other acceptable fonts). Please do not underline or shade the changes. Deleted sections should be described but not marked as deletions. If the changes are so extensive that essentially all of the text would be marked, explain this in the introduction and don’t mark the changes.

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20 thoughts on “How Do I Mark Changes in a Resubmission?

  1. I respectfully disagree with this advice. As a long-time reviewer I find that changes in fonts or long sections of italics are annoying and unpleasant to read. (And italics can be confused as a method to indicate emphasis.) Brackets around long sections of revised text simply go unnoticed by the reader, and grant writers are likely to object (I would) to indents as a waste of the precious reduced real estate for writing a grant (new page limits).

    The most evident, and least annoying way to indicate areas of revision is with a simple vertical bar in the left margin. This also works for revised/new figures, graphs or tables.

      • The instructions at the top of this page do not match those
        in the application guide, which does not mention “italicizing or changing the font (to one of the other acceptable fonts).”

        Quoting the application guide verbatim:
        “The substantial scientific changes must be marked in the
        text of the application by bracketing, indenting, or change
        of typography.”

        Are change bars, as described above by Irving Bigio, acceptable for marking changes in a resubmission, because they are a “change of typography”?

        • Changing the font or italicizing is what “change of typography” refers to in the application guide. As for the vertical line, that is not changing the type, but you might be able to argue that it’s a form of bracketing. We’ll check into it.

          • Adding a vertical line in the margin is by far and away the most common way to do this, IME during a 4 yr stint on study section. It is simple, clean and much less annoying than changed fonts, italics, etc.

            If the Rock Talk Team finds that this is not technically permitted then I suggest explicitly adding this to the rules.

  2. I agree that a change of font can be distracting to read and can sometimes be buried and unnoticed. I tend to mark up my changes with the vertical line, automatically, using the track changes feature of Word and the appropriate preference settings.

    I have always wondered what the instructions mean by “shading text” (as one of the things that we are not supposed to do). Does that mean highlighting, changing font color, or something else? Personally, I am always tempted to put my changes in dark blue IN ADDITION to other mark-up techniques; not helpful if printed in black and white but it would give the reviewers additional options if they were reading on the computer or printing in color anyway. However, I always worry that this will be somehow deemed as against the rules and the proposal will get tossed back. Would that be allowed?

    • Thanks for the comment and questions. Shading means highlighting. As for colored text, the application guide is very clear that only black text is acceptable.

  3. Was there clarification from Rock Talk about whether the vertical bar (which I agree is far and away the least obstrusive) is permissible for revised resubmission?

    Thank you.

    • We spoke with CSR (Center for Scientific Review) and this is acceptable as a form of bracketing, but it is encouraged that you review your layout and make sure it appears in your final PDF.

      • Hi…this page has been very helpful during the resubmission process! Thank you!! One more question though – does it matter whether the vertical line is in the left or right margin?

        • It would be fine to use a vertical line or bracket in either margin, just be sure to review your layout and make sure it appears in your final PDF.

  4. 2 questions for a resubmission:

    1) I plan on using vertical lines in the left margin for indicating changes. Does it matter if the line is within the 1/2″ margin? Or do I need to indent everything slightly so that the vertical line is NOT within the 1/2″ margin?

    2) I have a lot of comments to address in my resubmission. I assume that I need to stay within the 12 page limit. How would you recommend that I fit my additions in the main text? Should I delete parts of the application?

    Thanks, Dave

    • The risk with margin annotations is that they may be cut off when your application gets processed by NIH’s systems, which why it is imperative to view your final application after it has been assembled and made available in the eRA Commons. If your markup isn’t visible you may need to indent your text slightly to accommodate it while maintaining the required margins. If you don’t like what you see, the application needs to be changed and resubmitted BEFORE the due date… yet another reason to submit early!

      As to where to address your changes, you would do this in the one page introduction you get for resubmission applications. We also suggest including a brief note in the introduction as to how changes are marked. All page limits remain the same for the research strategy. Please review the application guide section on resubmissions. Here’s an excerpt:

      An Introduction must be included that summarizes the substantial additions, deletions, and changes to the application. The Introduction must also include a response to the issues and criticism raised in the Summary Statement. The Introduction is separate from the Cover Letter. Use Item 2.1 Introduction of the PHS 398 Research Plan Component to provide this information. The page limit for the Introduction may not exceed one page unless indicated otherwise. Please refer to the relevant section of the application instructions and the FOA.

  5. I have used black font in slightly lighter print, essentially dark grey. You see it when you want to and ignore it if you don’t. Any thoughts on this solution? It hasn’t raised flags thus far, but..

    • Again, we advise you to stick to the application guide suggestions for marking your revisions and check your application AFTER it is uploaded into Commons to see if your markup is visible/noticeable. See our response to the question above!

  6. I’m a bit unclear on the line “Deleted sections should be described but not marked as deletions.” I’m not quite sure how to describe a deleted section without saying it’s a deletion. Or does that mean we note what was deleted without bracketing/indenting/italicizing/etc the note?

  7. Is there a reason why highlighting isn’t allowed to mark changes? I did this and our business office caught it in time and made me change it. But I remember thinking: this is such a nice, readable way of marking where the changes are. I understand if it were a really bright, gaudy color, it might be very distracting, but I’m talking about a very light highlight. Font changes (which is what I had to go to) are impossible to see when you’ve got a bunch of different font changes in your regular text (bold, italics). Ditto bracketing. Marking a line on the side where changes have occurred can work, and it can be argued that is a form of bracketing, but if you’re already sitting at the margin it’s not clear where you can put those lines. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a really convenient way to do this except by hand (unless I’m missing a word option– we usually want to pick and choose what we highlight as a change. Little typo corrections don’t need to be highlighted). There could be a guideline for instance that RGB with all R,G,B>230 is acceptable or a predefined set that we can use (something that would work appropriately for those with color discrimination issues). We use highlighting for aesthetic reasons all the time, and this is apparently okay. Can you give me some context for why highlighting is so bad?

    • I got the opposite idea here:

      Will my new application be reviewed if it contains reference to a previous review outcome?

      No. Your application will be withdrawn from the review process if you include anywhere in the your application the kind of information that would be found in a previous summary statement (score, critique criterion scores, reviewers comments), information that would be appropriate for an Introduction (response to the previous review and information about how the application was changed), or marks in the text of the application to show how it has changed since the last submission.

      • In 2014, NIH published an NIH Guide Notice on Modification to Guidance on Marking Changes in Resubmission Applications. The notice highlights that NIH has removed the requirement to identify ‘substantial scientific changes’ in the text of a Resubmission application by ‘bracketing, indenting, or change of typography’. Please read NOT-OD-15-030 for more information, and find answers to other frequently asked questions regarding resubmission on the website.