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What is Correction Fluid?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 22, 2024
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Correction fluid is a liquid which can be applied to paper to cover up errors such as those made by a pen or typewriter. The fluid is designed to dry very quickly when exposed to air, allowing people to write or type over it within a minute or so after it is applied.

The earliest versions of correction fluid were developed in the 1950s by founders of Liquid Paper, a popular brand of this product. Another famous brand is Wite-Out®, with many Europeans being familiar with Tipp-Ex. In all cases, it is typically white, reflecting a very common color choice for paper. In addition to correction fluid, people can also purchase correction tape, which works in much the same way.

Before the development of correction fluid, when an error was made, an entire document might have to be discarded if the error could not be covered up or erased. Correction fluid cut down dramatically on waste and headaches for weary secretaries, and it has become a ubiquitous feature in offices as a result. By convention, this fluid is not used on formal correspondence, because some people feel that it looks a bit tacky. If an error is made in an official document, the document will typically be reprinted without the error.

Classically, correction fluid comes in a small bottle with a brush or sponge mounted to the cap to make it easy to use. It can also be found in tubes with nozzles which typically use roller balls to control the flow of the fluid, or in the form of correction pens. Some people prefer to use correction tape because it is neater than a liquid option and it can be written over immediately, and several companies make correction tape in dispensers which are very easy to use for this very reason.

Users often notice that this product thickens over time, sometimes becoming chunky and impossible to use. This is because the solvents which keep the correction fluid in a liquid state slowly evaporate over time, especially if a container is left open, exposing the fluid to the air. One way to prevent the evaporation of the solents is to purchase it in small containers and keep the containers closed when not in use. Incidentally, these same solvents can cause health problems, so it is a good idea to avoid inhaling fumes from correction fluid.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Aug 15, 2014

@Scrbblchick-- I agree with you. Not many people use correction fluid anymore. I still use it, but I guess I'm a little old-fashioned.

Even when I print something by computer, there is often a mistake in it and I don't want to waste more paper and printer ink by printing it out again. So I will use correction fluid for minor mistakes.

Regardless of whether one writes by hand or types on a computer, I think it's a good idea to have a bottle of correction fluid at home just in case. You never know when you might need it.

By turquoise — On Aug 14, 2014

@SteamLouis-- The new ones are actually quite good. They come with a nice, triangle shaped sponge brush for application. The color is better, it dries faster and it doesn't become chunky with time.

I remember when I was a young student, the correction fluid was very difficult to work with. It had a regular bristled brush which didn't apply the fluid evenly or precisely. I remember how excited we were when the correction fluid pens came out. But those were worse because one had to press down to get the fluid out. So I would press a little and when nothing came out, I would press harder and a huge amount of fluid would come out of the pen suddenly, ruining my work.

The new correction fluids at least don't have these issues. I don't have trouble using them.

By SteamLouis — On Aug 13, 2014

I think there has to be better ways to correct mistakes than correction fluid. I cannot be the only one who has noticed how tacky correction fluid looks. First of all, it's too white and never matches the tone of white paper. When anyone looks at the page, the correction fluid jumps out, it's too noticeable. I'd rather rewrite something important than use correction fluid on it.

By Wisedly33 — On Aug 06, 2014

Oh golly -- correction fluid. I know they still make it, and it's as annoying to use as it's always been. I prefer correction tape. I have some in a dispenser I keep in my desk. It works very well.

I mostly use correction tape when I'm addressing envelopes. We have a department printer rather than our own, personal printers, and it's just easier to address the envelopes by hand, rather than put the envelope in the printer and hope no one prints anything out before you do.

Correction tape just looks neater and if it bunches up, you can just peel it off the paper. No harm done.

By Scrbblchick — On Aug 05, 2014

I remember when erasable pens were popular. We used them in high school. They were great. When I was in eleventh grade, my English teacher said she didn't like erasable pens, and that we'd all better invest in correction fluid.

There is definitely an art to applying the stuff. You have to get it thick enough to cover the error, but thin enough so it dries quickly and won't clump up when you write over it. I never could decide whether I preferred the brush tip or a sponge tip. As long as the fluid was fresh, probably the brush tip. It seemed to spread a thinner initial layer. Kids now have no idea what you're talking about, since they've never written a paper with anything but a computer, where you can correct everything before you hit the print button.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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