Friday, July 1, 2011

Writing Tip - Learn to Love the Red Pen

image by Mad African
I heart red pens and have a drawer filled with them (okay, maybe not a drawer, but I have a lot of them and am always buying more). I've tried other colors (green, purple). I want to love other colors, but they just don't have the immediacy (the "let's fix this right now") impact of red.

And yes, I know you're not supposed to write on other people's work in red. I used to be an elementary school teacher. I "get" the fact that people find red slashes on their work demeaning.

But for my own stuff...I want it to be right. Better. The best I can make it. That means editing, often heavily. So, despite my aversion to harming the planet by using more paper, I frequently print out work and go at it with a red pen. I cross out, I insert things. I draw arrows showing where things go and make balloons with words on them when things get too messy and I have difficulty telling what change goes where. If I have long inserts, I scribble them on the back of the sheet, and if I'm not sure if a change is right, I draw big red question marks next to the material or if I'm not sure what the change should be yet but I know a change is needed, I simply write suggestions to myself ("Make change here." "This seems awkward" or "This seems unclear"). When I've done all that, I can either make the changes on the computer or wait to make them later. Either way, I know that the book will be better for that brutal red pen.

Love the red pen. The red pen is your friend!


Julie Hilton Steele said...

I love my red pens. In fact I will be using a lot of them next week. I have to have that bright color so I don't skim over my corrections. But I guess you could do orange or green if the red freaks you out.

I am a red pen girl too!

Peace, Julie

Myrna Mackenzie said...

I think red pen girls rock! (And that's how I'm going to think of us now, The Red Pen Girls. I'll bet we're not alone, either).

When I judge contests and have to use other colors, I'm always drawing big circles around whatever I write, because I'm afraid that my comments won't be seen.

Laney4 said...

Whenever I need to edit, I ALWAYS print all the pages, even if it's a long book. (I've typed several.) I miss too much when looking at the screen instead! It is easier (for me, at least) to move paragraphs from one page to another if I have the pages spread out in front of me, rather than flipping back and forth on the screen. I can "do" and "undo" and "redo" without losing any of my suggestions, if I've written out the changes.
I wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote above, as I too write long insertions on the backs of pages, add balloons or such for more than a few words to insert.
If I am typing for a customer and think he/she has forgotten something or I think it's incorrect, etc., I highlight on the computer any areas that I think need tweeting, as customers no longer want printed copies. Depending on the confidentiality, I either email the reports to customers or save to a USB stick for them, so all they get is the electronic version until they themselves proof everything and then print it off.
Oh. BTW, Myrna. I guess I'm not a red pen girl too, as I am just fine with using any colour ink or pencil. Heck, I've even used pencil crayons just to get rid of them (as I inherited hundreds of them when my kids graduated college).

Myrna Mackenzie said...

Elaine, that's a good point about being able to do, undo and redo without losing anything as long as the changes are written out. It really is difficult to see the progression of things on a computer screen (when I edit on the computer, I'm always sure that I've missed something because I can't see what's on the other pages and either have to rely on my memory or do an arduous search).

I think you must have better eyesight than I do (the reason I need the glaring contrast of the red pen). But Elaine, even if you're not a red pen girl, you rock!