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I’ll be honest, I don’t like red. I don’t like red roses (too traditional), red apples (too mealy), red lipstick (too startling) or Redbull (too caffienated). You won’t catch me wearing red on the LSU campus — uh, ‘Bama anyone? Look in my closet and you will see one red dress (that I wear for the heart disease “Go Red for Women” campaign each year) and no other red clothes.

I recently had a colleague whose writing student accused him of liking it when the class made errors on their writing assignments as he then got to use his red pen to edit their papers. His response, he told the students he actually liked it better when they wrote well so that he wouldn’t have to use the red pen. I have to agree. I LOVE it when I can return a student assignment with little to no red ink on the page. It is such a pleasure to read assignments like these.

I’ve tried other colors of ink. When I run out of red I switch to blue. However, it seems students only read my comments if I write them in red. Now, I know that probably isn’t the case, but I tell you what — I write a comment or suggestion in red on someone’s page and they usually ask me about it. They at least take notice of it. After all, red’s kind of hard to miss.

And that’s really what we, as teachers, are trying to do — make things stand out. We want students to notice them. We want students to ask about them. We want students to change things so they get it right in the future. We ARE NOT trying to traumatize students (I promise). If we could be assured that a blue or black pen would do the same thing we would use that color.

In my service-learning classes — where students work for a real nonprofit client — I especially use the red pen so that the mistakes they make in my class are not repeated when they write for the client. It makes the client look bad; it makes the student look bad; it makes their team look bad; it makes me look bad; it makes Manship look bad. I’d rather a little red ink look bad on their papers than all the other “badness.”

I don’t like the red pen, but I use it. As my colleague pointed out. If I used a green pen it would look like a shamrock all over the paper.

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