Bethlehem Press

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A politically correct pen A politically correct pen

A politically correct pen

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 by The Press in Opinion

My first grade teacher had a distinctive looping handwriting. I remember the stars that would appear atop my papers after she had corrected them. The stars were in red ink, as were the corrections she made. Always.

It was in the first grade that I took my first tentative foray into writing. When asked to write a sentence about the dog that attended the fire drill – my Scottish Terrier, that had inadvertently made a show- and-tell appearance which coincided with a routine fire drill – I wrote three. The paper was subsequently corrected in red ink.

The red ink didn't curtail my writing.

I went on during elementary school to write plays for my friends, and myself, to star in. And later, I wrote the anguished love poems of a smitten 13-year-old girl.

During high school, I wrote countless essays and that dreaded first term paper, which included the requisite note cards. These, too, found corrections in red ink strategically scattered throughout the pages.

Despite the red ink and all that it implied, I continued to be a prolific writer.

The red ink continued to appear throughout college, only it was to be found in a large, exuberant style from the hands of my favorite writing professor, who with great care honed my writing craft while allowing me to keep my voice. And that pen still appeared well into my early writing career. Writing and editing, it was there. The red ink.

Never once did I feel hampered or stifled or limited or stunted by the traditional hue of corrective ink.

As a freelance editor, I have clients who have different preferences as to style guidelines, AP, Chicago and the like, and how they desire corrections to be indicated. However, it has always been stipulated that red ink be used for marking.

However, all that changed with the introduction of the politically correct purple pen.

I received an offer for ongoing work through a large publishing firm. The editing that I would be required to do seemed quite routine; nothing different from what my prior experience had dictated.

Then, the UPS package appeared.

As I always like to receive a packages, I eagerly tore off the wrapping. Once the box was opened, I was taken by surprise to find a plethora of purple-inked pens. Every style and every make of purple-inked pen, thick and fine point, even those with a comfort grip.

Along with the package of purple-inked pens came a distinct politically correct message. Red was out, purple was in. Red ink was aggressive, red ink implied a demeaning and threatening message. Of course, this connotes a politically incorrect message which is inappropriate for the workplace.

Admittedly, I took up the purple pen for those pieces submitted to me for editing from this particular publishing firm, not out of agreement with the premise that a red-inked pen was politically incorrect, but because that was the policy of the firm.

Political correctness is all the rage. But when taken too far it becomes political absurdity.

Have the grace to temper political correctness with a rationality that does not belie its purpose.