The Redaction Debate: Are You Team White Out or Team Sharpie?

When it comes to redacting privileged information during discovery, there are two types of lawyers: those who love a whiff of white out and those who stick to Sharpies. Personally, we’re big white out fans here.

White out not only smells more pleasant, it’s less likely to smear across your fingers and wrists later. There’s nothing worse than showing up for a conference looking like a 1920’s news boy. Plus, white out is a liquid, allowing you to literally feel the stains as you make them on yourself, whereas Sharpie stains can go unnoticed for days.

But that’s only half the reason we love white out.

In addition to its aromatic properties, white out is, well, not as permanent as the alternatives. Catch yourself obscuring the wrong information? (A surprisingly common problem if you’re redacting in a small, unventilated office where chemical fumes can quickly accumulate—but that’s a blawg for another day.) White out lets you well, white out your mistake:

First, just quickly jump up and run to grab tissue paper or a paper towel, typically your bathroom or kitchen, though a well-equipped desk drawer or nearby supply closet may be nearer.

Then, fill a glass with water. Room temperature is fine, but warmer water will give you an edge.

Gently dip the corner of your tissue or towel into the water, keeping in mind that the goal is to slightly moisten the paper, not drown it.

Then, return to your document. If the white out hasn’t dried yet, you should be able to use your wetted towelette to simply wipe the misapplied redaction away and continue on your way.

Could you do that with Sharpie? I don’t think so.