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The Dreaded Red Pen

“Never underestimate the importance of the red pen.” –Roxanne Smolen The red pen is constructive, not threatening. Its function is to help; not criticize. I never proofread my work on the computer. I like to print it out. It gets me away from the ‘screen’, puts me in the role of reader and allows me to use my red pen.

For most of us, we learned early on that a returned paper with a lot of red ink needed to be redone. Spelling, grammar and sentence structure were usually the culprits for the red ink. But without it, we would not know where we were going wrong, how to correct it and do better on the next assignment. Writing is no different. It is a process and it takes time, commitment, patience and the ability to allow the red pen to find mistakes. However, if you find yourself unable to mark up your own paper, ask someone who will be objective to read your work.

My method is to proofread my work up to five times and then I will turn it over to someone else. Reason being, I start to read the same thing (mistakes and all) over and over making it difficult to see it with ‘fresh eyes’. Keep in mind, while someone else is using the red ink on your work, it does not mean you have to adhere to those changes. If you can justify why you said what you said, or how it’s said, or why it was written the way you wrote it, by all means keep it.

Should you need the services of a professional, keep in mind that they do not know you or your style of writing. They read the piece ‘cold’ and will edit as they see fit. They will not read it in your ‘voice’ so be prepared for a lot of changes that you may or may not agree with.

The bottom line is while the red pen may not be your best friend, it is a firm friend that only wants the best from you.

Next week…patience

Until next time…

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