Thursday, September 12, 2013

Red Pens: Proofreading Gone Bad?

Who said you can’t use red pens? Have you heard parents want to ban red ink for grading? What do you think? Were you stressed out by the comments in red ink from your school days? Urban Dictionary has defined two types of red pen conditions:

Red Pen Syndrome: “The sufferers of this syndrome have an irrepressible urge to correct any and all grammar mistakes that come within their sight. At times this can be helpful, but at other times, it can be downright inappropriate and mean.”

RedPen Police: “People who preoccupy themselves with correcting the spelling and grammar of others - normally out of some self-esteem issue or desire to prove some value from their otherwise useless thirty-grand education. (November 9, 2012 Urban Word of the Day)”

Are you offended by or proud of these definitions? Do you have “an irrepressible urge to correct any and all grammar mistakes” that come within your sight? For those of us who do, are we doing it for the right reasons?

John Berman, host of CNN’s “Early Start,” told a story on air about a buddy of his who received a rejection letter from Princeton; his friend returned the letter with corrections. Perhaps a case of sweet revenge? I hope he used a red pen!

Someone I met told me an incident about her friend who returned her three-year-old daughter’s pre-school application with corrections in red ink. As she gave the application to the clerk, she said, “Sorry.” Do you think she did anything wrong?

Be careful, though; there may be a consequence to your critical eye. Have you heard of Muphry’s Law? Did you think I meant Murphy’s Law? Certainly, that’s what I thought when I saw Muphry’s Law in an e-mail subject line.

Muphry's Law is the editorial application of the better-known Murphy's Law. Muphry's Law dictates that if you write anything criticizing another person's editing or proofreading, you will inevitably make a mistake of your own. Note that by definition, pointing out an example of Muphry's Law makes you in turn subject to it.”

Hmmm. I think I'll keep using my red pen because I can’t stop my passion for helping people to communicate better. Would you like to confess a Red Pen Syndrome moment? 

Judy Beaver, The Office Pro


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