Friday, June 22, 2012

Shades of Meaning

On his way out the door this morning, Dear Husband looked over the top of my laptop to kiss me good-bye. Catching sight of my split screen--primary source on the right, highlighted notes on the left--he said, "You know, Faulkner wanted to publish in multiple ink colors already, but they wouldn't let him. Sorry, you can't be the first to do that." Unsure of whether he was being a font of trivia or of sarcasm, I googled it. It turns out that someone has in fact made Faulkner's wish come true: publishing has "grown up" enough to put out a 14-color edition with a color-coded bookmark to track the jumbled time periods and tenses in his stream-of-consciousness masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury. (It's limited to 1,480 hand-numbered copies at a cool $345 each.)

I've used multi-colored highlighting ever since Word started supporting it, especially in order to organize my reading notes from oh-so-many book reviews for my preliminary exams a few years ago: yellow for useful factual information, teal for the author's argument, green for praise, red for criticism, hot pink for important ideas or theories. For my own writing, blue is usually for my own thoughts and ideas, green or maroon for a section I'm still working on, red for things to look up, orange or italics for text that probably won't stay but I don't want to delete it yet, purple for sections to work on in the future, and black for text I've settled on. My documents often look like the screen shot below, at least in the writing/editing stage. I have entertained the thought of trying to get my advisers to read chapters in technicolor, but probably they would just print them out in black and white anyway. When I turn in the first draft of the second chapter of my dissertation at the end of this month, I guess it will be in plain (authoritative?) black and white after all.

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