Easing the Pain With Purple

Several hundred years ago (more or less) when I started teaching I got the strange idea to mark my students’ papers and exams with purple ink rather than red.

My idea, at the time, was to lessen the blow of any marks I made on a student composition by writing in purple ink rather than red ink. My theory was that although red generally serves as a warning color and a sign to stop, I felt it overwhelmed the comments themselves. The students saw red and that’s all they saw. A few red marks weren’t that impressive, too many overwhelmed. Students would say the paper was bleeding and since it was possible to bleed to death, it meant the paper was dead.

A comparison: Blue is too cool; red too harsh; green to approving; and pink too damned cute.

A comparison: Blue is too cool; red too harsh; green to approving; and pink too damned cute to be taken seriously.

I told my students that I marked in purple. This meant, as I think I phrased it, that the paper “wasn’t bleeding to death; it had only been roughed up a little” and could be saved with a little treatment. I don’t know if it worked, and I never did a counter test with red (mostly because I’d bought a pack of purple pens and wanted to use them) but several students later commented that they’d “checked the bruises” so my plan at least left that impression.

I’ve recently gone back to using purple ink, albeit for different reasons than before.

After a decade and a half of marking with red ink, I decided to switch back to marking in purple. My reasons weren’t psychological. I’m not a big fan of the red pens made available at the school where I work and used that dislike as an excuse to start using fountain pens when I marked. I used to use a red Pilot Vanishing Point, but I got tired of having to stop and refill it during marking because the converter didn’t hold much ink.

For this marking session, I chose my TWSBI Classic Mini. It holds more ink than the PIlot VP and has a medium nib that writes relatively thin for a medium. For ink I chose Pilot Iroshizuku Murosaki-Shikibu (or Japanese Beauty Berry). I could use red ink, but I’ve found red inks are harder to clean when it comes time to clean the pen and some of them look too pink to be taken seriously.

(Note: I had fewer students question my marks this time, but that may be attributed to a sudden burst of competence on my part. Yes, after all these years, I’ve finally learned how to do this job.)

Next term I may switch back to red just to see what happens, but I’d like to use up that Iroshizuku ink first. Until I switch, the TWSBI is now the Purple Pen of Pain.

The Purple Pen of Pain

The Purple Pen of Pain


One thought on “Easing the Pain With Purple

  1. Pingback: One Pen Two Pen Red Pen Purple Pen | Mere Blather

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