Colourful Writing in more ways than One!

Colourful Writing - Colour pencils byMyriams Fotos CC0 Public Domain
Colour­ful writ­ing — can be achieved in many ways. It is true that a good writer will pro­vide colour through the words, phras­es and sen­tences they cre­ate, but could the use of colours to empha­sise moods and to dis­tin­guish the dia­logue when two char­ac­ters are tak­ing part in a long conversation.

Monochrome  

Typewriter by Green Street (royalty free image owned by Peter Giblett.
Type­writer by Green Street (roy­al­ty free image owned by Peter Giblett.

We no longer live in the age of the type­writer which could type text in a max­i­mum of two colours, black and red (supe­ri­or mod­els only). As such there is no rea­son why a writer can­not make use of colours with­in the body of elec­tron­ic doc­u­ments. It is per­haps his­tor­i­cal con­ven­tions that leaves writ­ers lim­it­ing them­selves to black ink. We can embold­en it, under­line it, or even ital­i­cise it and per­haps use block cap­i­tals. But how colour­ful can writ­ing be?

 

Truth is there is so much more we could do by break­ing free of the con­fines of our auto­mat­ic choice, black. Through colour it is pos­si­ble to show moods and emo­tions. Can dia­logue be shown dif­fer­ent­ly? Colour adds so many visu­al clues which can cer­tain­ly enhance the val­ue of the writ­ing, yet colour is so much more that just the images (which in and of them­selves are important).

Moods and Emotions

From IMSI (part of royalty free collection)
From IMSI (part of roy­al­ty free collection)

With a wide range of colours avail­able it is pos­si­ble to por­tray emo­tions more clear­ly through the use of colours, the clas­sic ones being red for anger or rage and green with envy. These could cause prob­lems for those who suf­fer colour blind­ness who see both red and green as the same shade. It was easy to select these colours because they are dic­tat­ed by com­mon set­tings, but oth­er set­tings may be entire­ly per­son­al, for exam­ple I asso­ciate the colour pur­ple with pain becom­ing red at its worst, yet a friend once described pain as orange, so it is clear that there are no com­mon con­ven­tions for the use of colour in order to show moods, emo­tions and oth­er feel­ings through the use of writ­ten text.

My father once described the con­cept of love as sky-blue pink. It was his way to describe a con­fus­ing con­cept (e.g. and infu­sion of oppo­sites because of the colours nor­mal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with baby boys and girls) rather than spe­cif­ic use of colour for the con­cept, in oth­er words he was say­ing that describ­ing love is com­plex and full of con­tra­dic­tions. Which it is.
There are also some prac­ti­cal prob­lems with colour, for exam­ple yel­low on a white back­ground is almost unread­able, but this colour works well on a black back­ground. Using colour to rep­re­sent mood selec­tion can be complex.

Bold

In black text we tend to state anger as both UPPER CASE AND BOLD (which is one of the rea­sons why you may have been told that it is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered rude to send emails in upper case) and cer­tain­ly red­ness could enhance the pow­er of such a state­ment, with BOLD RED UPPER CASE being the extreme of anger. Its con­sid­ered rude to make Page Titles of sec­tion head­ers upper case and bold.
The only oth­er colour con­ven­tion to note is the use of blue under­lin­ing to indi­cate use of a hyper-link. This is very impor­tant from the per­spec­tive on on-line material.

Colourful Writing and Speech

from Green Street (royalty free collection)
from Green Street (roy­al­ty free collection)

Great ani­mos­i­ty or great love between two char­ac­ters is some­thing an author is free to explore. The essence of any sto­ry is about the colour of the speech used. Of course in part this can mean the exple­tives used but also relates to the inter­ac­tions between one per­son and anoth­er, to high­light hid­den agen­das and detail the thoughts, hopes and dreams of the main play­ers. This can be as true of a non-fic­tion story.

We should per­haps con­sid­er using colours is in a dia­logue. This is for use when there is dis­cus­sion between Ben and Mary while the friends are trav­el­ing togeth­er down the long and wind­ing roads. If Ben’s words were one colour, say pur­ple, while Mary’s words were high­light­ed in anoth­er colour, for exam­ple orange, then it would be eas­i­er to see who said which words with­out hav­ing to resort to adding “he said” or “she said” to seg­ments of the speech.
There are cer­tain­ly lim­its here because it would be very expen­sive to print phys­i­cal books in colour. This is not a lim­i­ta­tion when pro­duc­ing e-books, or blogs. At its sim­plest encom­pass a word colour for the main char­ac­ters. The default, black, is there to guide read­ers across the sto­ry, is the colour of nar­ra­tive ele­ments of a sto­ry at nor­mal times.

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7 Replies to “Colourful Writing in more ways than One!”

  1. […] through which the Eng­lish lan­guage is spo­ken can make com­mu­ni­ca­tion inter­est­ing and some­times very colour­ful. The area in north-east Eng­land around the city of New­cas­tle is where many of the locals speak in a […]

  2. […] the plan­et. The future may hold many new advances in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, some eas­i­ly per­ceived, such as colour fonts for empha­sis but oth­ers are sim­ply awaiting […]

  3. […] yet there is lit­tle evi­dence this must be the case. Bold and ital­ic, even under­lined and coloured fonts have more val­ue to the read­er than to any search engine. Writ­ers use empha­sis tools because the […]

  4. […] the plan­et. The future may hold many new advances in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, some eas­i­ly per­ceived, such as colour fonts for empha­sis but oth­ers are sim­ply awaiting […]

  5. […] long won­dered about the val­ue that colour would bring the writ­ten word. I dis­cussed this with an ear­ly piece on this […]

  6. […] cou­ple of posts on this site were more exper­i­men­tal than seri­ous, although I still like the one on colour­ful writ­ing. I was for­tu­nate to have a ready audi­ence when I start­ed this blog, which was not the case for […]

  7. […] yet there is lit­tle evi­dence this must be the case. Bold and ital­ic, even under­lined and coloured fonts have more val­ue to the read­er than to any search engine. Writ­ers use empha­sis tools because the […]

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