A mix of red and blue, the color purple embodies red's sense of authority but also blue's association with serenity, making it a less negative and more constructive color for correcting student papers, color psychologists said. Purple calls attention to itself without being too aggressive. And because the color is linked to creativity and royalty, it is also more encouraging to students.
"The concept of purple as a replacement for red is a pretty good idea," said Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute in Carlstadt, N.J., and author of five books on color. "You soften the blow of red. Red is a bit over-the-top in its aggression."
For office supply stores, color and fashion trends spell opportunity and risk. The trends allow them to freshen up staid old categories such as pens and markers, fueling sales. But getting a trend wrong -- betting on purple pens when teachers and students are buying green, for example -- can cost them sales during a critical retail period.
Red's legacy as the color used in correcting papers and marking mistakes goes back to the 1700s, the era of the quill pen. In those days, red ink was used by clerks and accountants to correct ledgers. From there, it found its way into teachers' hands.
But two or three decades ago, an anti-red sentiment began surfacing among teachers. Since then, no one color had emerged as red's replacement.
I've been hearing this vapidity in teacher workshops for the past 12 years. What a crock! As if kids don't know that a mistake is a mistake. I'm with this teacher.
Red has other defenders. California high-school teacher Carol Jago, who has been working with students for more than 30 years, said she has no plans to stop using red. She said her students do not seem psychologically scarred by how she wields her pen. And if her students are mixing up "their," "there," and "they're," she wants to shock them into fixing the mistake.
"We need to be honest and forthright with students," Jago said. "Red is honest, direct, and to the point. I'm sending the message, 'I care about you enough to care how you present yourself to the outside world.' "
Chalk up another piece of evidence for Michael Barone's thesis on Hard and Soft America. There's a lot of truth in that book, as in all that Barone writes.