When I was a fresh, enthusiastic sales and marketing assistant in my first office job, I desperately wanted to do good work and make an impression.

In fact, I probably tried a little too hard (retrospect is a wonderful thing).

My boss at the time loved her red pen. She red-penned my work daily. Every. Single. Document.

It broke my heart and dampened my enthusiasm, but I kept striving. I admit I learnt some important lessons about writing and resilience from that red pen (there’s that retrospect again). And gradually the red pen marks lessened.

After this early experience, I took a strong aversion to red pens through my career. In fact, when I began managing a team of my own, I avoided editing with a red pen at all costs! I bought pens of every other colour of the rainbow instead.

Then when I started studying my Certificate in Professional Editing and Proofreading, I received a package in the post. In it was my editing bible (the Style manual for authors, editors and printers) and two felt-tip pens: one black and one red.

Perhaps this was a sign that it was time to embrace the red pen. Maybe the red pen could be a symbol of improvement rather than failure. I saw that it could offer help. It could improve the writing of others. It could be a useful editing tool.

And now, the red pen is my friend.

So next time someone scribbles on your work with a red pen, learn from it. Question it. Understand it. Value the professional insight its user is delivering to make your words shine.

And ignore the colour if you have to.

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