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.


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.


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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