Webster defines redaction “as an act or instance of editing.” Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Well it’s not. I define redacting as “one of the scariest tasks performed in a law office.” I realize that I am often prone to exaggeration, but I implore you to heed my warning this time.

Do you recall back in December when the Department of Homeland Security posted on their Web site their procedures for profiling potential terrorists and an employee of Homeland Security didn’t properly redact the document? Scary stuff, unless of course you are a terrorist, because now you know all the Department of Homeland Security’s tricks.

If you have any reservations about redacting — don’t do it. It’s not complicated but you must know what you are doing.

Back in the day, redacting was a breeze. You had a black magic marker, you drew over what you didn’t want your adversary to see and the worst that could happen was you dropped a black magic marker on your tan pants and ruined them. A small price to pay. And unless your adversary hired Superman, they couldn’t see through the black magic marker. You couldn’t see through redacting tape either. Mark it up, take it up, make a copy and out the door it went without nary a thought.

Today we have the PDF, the TIFF and the Word document, all with cool tools to redact directly on the document from your computer. No copying, no mess. The only problem is if you don’t redact properly using these tools, your adversary can “peek” under your redaction and see all those juicy facts you were hiding.

You might want to get your scissors out so you can cut out this article and laminate it and study it until you are almost blind. Because I doubt anyone reading this article wants to have to look someone in the face and say: “Umm, remember those redactions? Well they weren’t exactly redacted.”

So here goes, the steps to properly redact in the three most widely used law office programs.

ADOBE 8/9

• Choose Toolbar > Redaction.

• Select the Mark for Redaction tool.

• Mark items you want to remove using one of the following methods: Double-click to select a word or image; or press CTRL as you drag to select a line, a block of text, an object, or an area.

• Click Apply Redactions in the Redaction toolbar.

• Click OK to remove the items. Very important: The items are not permanently removed from the document until you save it!

• Save the document with a different name, i.e., REDACTED_MEMO.PDF.

MS WORD 2007

Microsoft Word does not have a redaction tool. You will need to download an add-in. One good one is Word 2007 Redaction Tool. It’s freeware software that works as an add-in. This freeware will mark and replace the text you select with a black bar. Once you install the Redaction Tool it will appear under the Review tab on the MS Word 2007 toolbar. To redact, follow these steps:

• Click on the Review tab in the toolbar.

• Highlight the text you want to redact by holding down the CTRL button.

• Click Mark.

• Click Mark>Redact.

A new redacted document will be created. You will be asked to run the Document inspector, which will remove any hidden metadata. Click Inspect, then Close.

THIS IS NOT REDACTING

• Highlighting the text and choosing black as the highlight color. It appears as a black box over the text and the text appears to be redacted. If you were to highlight that area again and change the highlight color to no color the text appears again. Even if you save the document with a new name.

• Selecting the text and changing the font color to white. It appears as if the words have disappeared and you can’t see them on the page. If you were to select the text and choose any color the text would be visible. Even if you save the document with a new name.

In essence, you need to make sure you redact so as to prevent someone else from un-redacting your redacting. If you think about it in that manner you will always be sure to check every document to make sure it is truly redacted.

Or you could just get out that trusty old black magic marker! •

Kim Walker is a litigation paralegal with Berger & Montague. She has been a paralegal in Philadelphia for 27 years. Walker serves as the chairwoman of the technology committee of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals, the chairwoman of the medical/legal committee of the Philadelphia Association of Paralegals and is a staff writer for the Philadelphia Forum.