A pen is just a pen, a sigh is just a sigh

But no! The fundamental things apply to pens as well. Everyone in editorial work needs to be able to mark up hard copy, and they need the right pen for the job. It’s unlikely to be a biro.

Biros have three big defects: they are coarse, dark and unreliable. Biros typically produce lines between 045mm and 06mm wide, much too broad for clear, accurate mark-up. If we want to ensure errors are corrected and avoid introducing new ones, our markings need to be precise but conspicuous, especially if there is just one small change on a page. The colours in biros are dark, even dull; we need inks that are fairly bright, though not too light.

The other defect with biros is that they seldom write instantly. This is a real problem to proofreaders and editors, whose mark-up is done in short bursts, often after long pauses, but needs to be instantly clear every time. Biros also tend to leave blots from time to time.

Gel pens are much better. They write straightaway without the propensity, when poised inactive for more than a few seconds, to either dry up or leave a puddle of ink at first contact; and the ink doesn’t spread after you’ve written, unless the paper is very poor. They come in a range of bright or very bright colours and different widths. As a compromise between fine marks and being noticed, 03mm is a good size. When writing instructions, I use 05mm; for other marks I use various sizes from 04mm down to 005mm.

For instructions and other less critical marks, many people use the Pilot V-5. This has a 05mm nib when new, is really smooth to write with and works straightaway every time, but it is too broad for accuracy. With use it gradually broadens to 06mm and eventually tends to blot. For most mark-up, I use a Pilot G-Tec-C4, which nominally has a 04mm nib, though I find they are about 035mm when new and can produce a finer line than that. For really fine marks, in 10pt or smaller, I use Zig Millennium pens in 01mm and 005mm sizes. You will be amazed what tiny and precise marks you can make with these — it is no problem to correct single-spaced footnotes in 8pt — though the red and blue are very dark, so I use a brighter pen for the marginal mark to ensure it won’t be missed. You may find other pens suit you better. Cult Pens will have what you want, but any pen won’t do. You need the right tool for the job.

Gerard M-F Hill
Much Better Text

Many thanks to Gerard for his contribution to our blog. We know Gerard from our association with the SfEP - the Society for Editors and Proofreaders - which promotes high editorial standards. I'm sure most of our customers will agree that a pen is not just a pen. At Cult Pens we firmly believe in the right tool for the job and we certainly have the widest range of the 'write tools' available anywhere!

16 September 2011

Comments

  • The Story of the Pen Type-A 28 February 2013
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    [...] people love it for very precise sketching, some for annotating bibles. Editors and proofreaders love the tiny notes they can fit between the lines. It is also very popular for scoring cricket matches, which requires [...]

  • Becky Black 24 November 2011
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    I'm a writer and the Pilot G-Tec C4 is my first choice every time when it comes to marking up my draft copy for editing. Usually in red, though sometimes I go nuts and use green or purple. At my cursed day job I have to deal with marked up letters from other people and I wish I could give them all Pilots too, instead of the nasty biros they use - in red if I'm lucky! For almost any other writing task I'm a Uniball gal. But for markup, the Pilot is the only way to go.

  • Making life easier, one pencil at a time – Cult Pens 10 October 2011
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    [...] work. With a lot of edges to do were soon roundly cursing these useless tools. This reminded us of Gerard Hill’s recent article for us on proof-reading, where the right tool for the job is essential. To our mind, almost any writing situation is [...]

  • Matthias 23 September 2011
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    More and more of these and similar tasks are moving from paper to the computer. I enjoy being able to mark assignments and exams on paper. My wife, who works for another university, is happy that she can perform these tasks on her computer... I hope I can continue marking assessments on paper ...for a few more years ...using my fountain pen (no drying up or puddles of ink with my Pelikan though, at least not when using the right ink).

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