Thoughts on a Red Pen’s Demise

I returned to my home office recently after a lengthy diversion for a customer. I’ve set up my desk, and I’ve stacked my bookshelf with all those books that we word geeks need–the unabridged dictionary, the thesaurus, the style guide, an industry-specific dictionary (older than the web site stated and priced far too high).

A co-worker brought me a business document for review, and I reached for that trusty red pen from my cup at the corner of my desk. I felt this inner surge of joy as I removed the cap from the pointy business end (why, yes, it does remind me of a rapier) and put it at the other end.

Imagine my chagrin as the pen refused to bleed in frustration at the issues in the writing. Don’t get me wrong; my team has excellent written communication skills. And that’s why writing issues are so egregious (and not in the archaic sense). But I digress…

As I fumbled for a new red pen, I began to let my mind wander.

First,. I felt sorry for those whose gifts weren’t written communication, who would sit in English, literature, or language arts classes and dread that paper coming back. That paper would be covered in the blood of the teacher’s pen, a pen assaulted by misspelling and grammar and usage errors. I could remember eye rolls and extra sweaty sweatshirts and bodies slinking to the floor.

Then I thought about immigrants from China trying to take a standard English class. I could imagine the confusion as red, their color of fiery expansive joy and good fortune, is used to tell them their writing has missed the mark and is just average and not real fortunate.

Then I visited the meaning of red in Christianity. Red is used in Revelation for the horse that indicates war and bloodshed. Scarlet, a shade of red, is used in Isaiah to describe sin and sinfulness. Red was also the color of the robe thrown roughly on Jesus’ shoulders after His scourging at the pillar when the Roman soldiers prepared to mock Him. Then His blood ran red at the crucifixion; because of His death and resurrection, I am covered by His blood so the Father sees only His Righteousness and not my sinfulness.

Then I came back to red on a graded paper… the papers my older children bring home. They are preemie survivors. The doctors didn’t know if they’d walk or talk, and then they falsely swore the kids would catch up. But whatever that history, red on their papers, just average, is a joyous sign of life and love and survival.

And then I swallowed some coffee and returned to my error hunt for survival of the economic stability of my home office.

Melodrama, anyone?

 

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