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Ink Color Etiquette


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#1 kwj1966

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 01:53

I've researched a few places to find out what the actual etiquette for ink color was. I have always preferred blue ink as I mostly use my pen to sign letters and I like the way the blue ink typically stands out from the black printed letters. I've read many opinions on the matter and in the end, I believe both black and blue are considered standards. Never the less, I'm curious to know if there is any history on the subject or what any of the forum members have to say on the matter. Thanks!

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#2 shadowsforbars

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 02:30

My understanding is:

Black for business
Blue for social correspondence
Red for correcting errors
Green for stocktaking

I don't know when you would use brown ink

Today, I don't think any of this matters and if you like a colour, that is good enough.

Edited by shadowsforbars, 05 December 2008 - 02:38.


#3 Blade Runner

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 02:41

QUOTE (shadowsforbars @ Dec 4 2008, 09:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I don't know when you would use brown ink

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#4 psfred

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 04:06

Thinking back over the history of ink, it would seem that black, blue-black, and brown-black inks were pretty standard business inks, with blue becoming common after aniline dyes were discovered after the Civil war. Business inks would have been permanent (originally carbon or iron-gall) with indigo blue added to iron gall inks to make blue-black. Blue inks were water soluble, so were more used for casual writing where permanence was not an issue.

Other colors were either bookkeeping (red) or other specific business use, and any color was fine for personal correspondence and casual writing.

Today, I wouldn't use anything but black, blue-black, or conservative dark blue for business, official, or formal writing. The sky's the limit for personal use.

Stick with a very conservative color for formal writing, as in invitations for formal parties, condolence cards, etc. This need not be only black or blue-black, but I would personally use only blue as another color, and then only something quite stately. You don't want to offend someone by seeming to make fun of their grief by sending a condolence card signed in flaming purple ink, after all.

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#5 Con

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 04:50

QUOTE (shadowsforbars @ Dec 4 2008, 09:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My understanding is:

Black for business
Blue for social correspondence
Red for correcting errors
Green for stocktaking

I don't know when you would use brown ink

Today, I don't think any of this matters and if you like a colour, that is good enough.


In some businesses it matters, unfortunately for those of us that
lead more colorful personal ink lives.

I like browns the best but was informed that black or blue were
the only allowed colors at my new job at the hospital, preferably
blue so it's easier to tell originals from copies and of course
it has to be a permanent ink. (on official documents, anyway)

Here's hoping my new Noodler's Navy is permanent enough for them
because after seven weeks of using a ball point I have had enough of that fun.
Current daily users: Pilot VP with Diamine Teal, Waterman Phileas M Cursive Italic with Arabian Rose, and a black Reform M CI with Copper Burst

#6 Goodwhiskers

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 05:13

I'm not an accountant, but I've heard from several sources (including posts here on the FPN) that the following has applied when accounting on paper:

Black (or blue or blue-black?) for credits
Red for debits
Green for annotations that do not change the value of the item being annotated

At one of my high school summer jobs, a supervisor saw me write my name in red on a fresh time card and immediately and seriously told me to tear it up and start again on a new card in black.

#7 gigipurple

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 05:31

Don't know about etiquette, but I use blue for business. As somebody else mentioned here, it's very helpful to distinguish originals from copies.
In my previous life as a college instructor I used red and green to make corrections on student papers. Those where the only choices I had at the moment that offered enough contrast so my notes would stand out. If I were teaching now I'll probably use violet, and sepia and orange, magenta, and turquoise, and many other colors to add some fun. Sadly, that previous life didn't include all the fountain pens and inks I have today. roflmho.gif Gigi

#8 bphollin

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 05:45

QUOTE (gigipurple @ Dec 4 2008, 10:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
In my previous life as a college instructor I used red and green to make corrections on student papers. Those where the only choices I had at the moment that offered enough contrast so my notes would stand out. If I were teaching now I'll probably use violet, and sepia and orange, magenta, and turquoise, and many other colors to add some fun. Sadly, that previous life didn't include all the fountain pens and inks I have today. roflmho.gif Gigi

One of my dear professors and a good friend insists on grading with ridiculously fluorescent gel pens. I like to grade with Pelikan 4001 Brown. It's warm and stands out--doesn't freak people out like red.

No idea if it's proper but I write in black only for cheques, contracts, and important documents, blue-blacks for most everything else, and browns for revisions and drawing attention to lists and such.

#9 ZeleniLav

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 12:33

A notary once asked me not to sign documents with black ink, because it looks very much like a photocopy. So I avoid signing things in black. Other than that, I'll use any kind of dark ink, be it blue, green, brown, purple, grey, or even red, for both my personal and business needs. I wouldn't use something like Pelikan Pink or Waterman South Seas Blue for anything other than marking something that needs to be particularly visible, or to write something cheerful-looking.

Edited by ZeleniLav, 05 December 2008 - 12:34.

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#10 DeaconKC

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 12:48

Zeleni makes a good point. Many licenses, etc. must be signed in a color other than black for legal purposes.
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#11 fuchsiaprincess

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 13:39

QUOTE (DeaconKC @ Dec 5 2008, 10:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Zeleni makes a good point. Many licenses, etc. must be signed in a color other than black for legal purposes.



Good point, but these days the colour photocopiers are so good that it makes the reasoning almost obsolete.

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#12 christob

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 15:56

"PHE" started the following link some time ago. He/She started with this quote from Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, by John Morgan:

Black remains the most correct and distinguished choice. Blue is very much in second place and is thought more suitable for women than for men. Blue-black is only appropriate for schoolboys. Coloured inks, although more acceptable than before, are still considered very suspect in traditional circles.


The rules here were ridiculed by some, but seeing the reactions at work to ink colours other than black and blue, I have come to think that this is boring but sound advice. However, I do use dark shades of "coloured" inks for internal business and note-takeing.

Note that some people, esp. Germans, still read Nazi connotations into brown inks.

And, - remember this! - purple is considered "French" by some. Whether this is good or not I leave to you.

Suggested further rules for "proper" colours:
For Christmas - red, green, Saguaro wine (my personal choice), and Noodlers black bulletproof on the envelope.
For Christians - the liturgical colours of the year.
For muslims - green
For Dutch - orange, Irish - green, Cubans - red or Havanna Brown, etc.

Edited by christob, 05 December 2008 - 16:02.


#13 lapis

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 16:08

Well here's a dash of history in a whole soup of feelings (of mine)....

 For the "usual" writing, basically for me myself -- like notes, grocery store lists, protocols -- I "usually" use blue-blacks (various brands, including my own mixtures) just because I love blue-blacks. I think I got used to writing with ink which was blue-black back in school 100 years ago, but, alas, I forget. Who cares? If I need to make a photocopy of anything I write, blue-black comes out better than blue.
 For signatures on bills I send by e-mail, I use (scans) of blue because that looks more personal, less digital than almost everything else of the MS Word texts which usually come out of any of my laser and/or ink printers in black. Blue faves = Eclat de saphir and Florida in that order. Historically and psychologically speaking, blue is also a colour -- actually the colour -- for loyalty, faithfulness, and timelessness/eternity.
 For corrections I always use Skrip red only.
 Pure black is a colour I don't like because it's too impersonal, characterless, resembling nothing other than a (black and white) photocopy itself. I know many of you love black, but I don't. I still use it occasionally when I want some text content to differentiate itself from blue-black text. I also use black for a lot of mixing. I think black is a good colour for funerals.

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#14 ccajackson

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 16:12

QUOTE (Con @ Dec 4 2008, 11:50 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (shadowsforbars @ Dec 4 2008, 09:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My understanding is:

Black for business
Blue for social correspondence
Red for correcting errors
Green for stocktaking

I don't know when you would use brown ink

Today, I don't think any of this matters and if you like a colour, that is good enough.


In some businesses it matters, unfortunately for those of us that
lead more colorful personal ink lives.

I like browns the best but was informed that black or blue were
the only allowed colors at my new job at the hospital, preferably
blue so it's easier to tell originals from copies and of course
it has to be a permanent ink. (on official documents, anyway)

Here's hoping my new Noodler's Navy is permanent enough for them
because after seven weeks of using a ball point I have had enough of that fun.

Con,

Interesting that your hospital prefers blue. Throughout my training I always had people try to get me to switch from blue to black (ballpoint back then), for the (out-dated) reasoning that blue did not photocopy well. For the especially persistent people I would copy a blue-written page and ask them (nicely, of course!) to tell me if it was in blue or black originally. I continue to use my blues, and recently there is tacit acceptance, presumably for the same reason you give - telling copy from original.

While I know that there are other brands with water-proof/permanent inks, I also like Noodler's. As I prefer my blues a bit brighter, I am using Upper Ganges (bullet-proof) or Baystate Blue (waterproof). These have the benefit of standing out in the chart, so no one can claim they didn't see my note! Legal Lapis is also a nice bullet-proof option that I used when testing the waters for blue persecution, as it runs a little more to the blue/black/gray.

Cheers,
C-C

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#15 fuchsiaprincess

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 07:49

QUOTE (ccajackson @ Dec 6 2008, 01:42 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Con @ Dec 4 2008, 11:50 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (shadowsforbars @ Dec 4 2008, 09:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My understanding is:

Black for business
Blue for social correspondence
Red for correcting errors
Green for stocktaking

I don't know when you would use brown ink

Today, I don't think any of this matters and if you like a colour, that is good enough.


In some businesses it matters, unfortunately for those of us that
lead more colorful personal ink lives.

I like browns the best but was informed that black or blue were
the only allowed colors at my new job at the hospital, preferably
blue so it's easier to tell originals from copies and of course
it has to be a permanent ink. (on official documents, anyway)

Here's hoping my new Noodler's Navy is permanent enough for them
because after seven weeks of using a ball point I have had enough of that fun.

Con,

Interesting that your hospital prefers blue. Throughout my training I always had people try to get me to switch from blue to black (ballpoint back then), for the (out-dated) reasoning that blue did not photocopy well. For the especially persistent people I would copy a blue-written page and ask them (nicely, of course!) to tell me if it was in blue or black originally. I continue to use my blues, and recently there is tacit acceptance, presumably for the same reason you give - telling copy from original.

While I know that there are other brands with water-proof/permanent inks, I also like Noodler's. As I prefer my blues a bit brighter, I am using Upper Ganges (bullet-proof) or Baystate Blue (waterproof). These have the benefit of standing out in the chart, so no one can claim they didn't see my note! Legal Lapis is also a nice bullet-proof option that I used when testing the waters for blue persecution, as it runs a little more to the blue/black/gray.

Cheers,
C-C



Someone at work pulled out the work policy regarding ink colour to be used - black or black..... however, what really annoys me is that she didn't read the rite to other people who used blue ballpoint pens!



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#16 wykpenguin

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 02:15

When I was in Japan on holiday, every ballpoint pen I could buy was black. There were no blue ones. Of course, gel pens would come in every colour.

So I am guessing that Japanese prefer writing in black.

As for myself, I am addicted to Zhivago now, so everything I write is in greenish black. It will pass as black to the unwary.

#17 Ondina

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 09:39

I find this thread fascinating having being exposed myself to ever-changing capricious rulings in University, hospitals, etc. over the years. I came to the conclusion I was going to use what I wanted. And the day after we were lectured about color do/don'ts, a color Xerox copier came common use, so....
Well, I had to give up green for my exams. A professor raised an eyebrow seeing my notes and remarked that I better saved that color for my own notes, so I opted for a standard blue for the test, etc....

Edited by Ondina, 07 December 2008 - 12:29.


#18 baronofthenorth

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 11:41

My former English professor always preferred, and frankly insisted upon, blue or black ink only for any assignments he was to read. Of course notes were left to our own personal choice of color and so forth. However, it turns out that he was a fountain pen aficionado and I was the only student he had that also fancied quality writing instruments. As a result of this I was able to expand slightly with Noodler's Legal Lapis, and some other blues and blue-blacks on a regular basis. Lucky me! For everyone else, they were stuck with ballpoints for the most part. He HATED the gel pens because many of their inks had a glare he didn't care for much at all. Rollerballs were accepted, but not common.

#19 Shangas

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 11:56

Black for important/formal/business writing.

Blue for social writing or for important/business writing where it may be necessary to differentiate between the original document and a photocopy.

Red for corrections.

Green for further corrections (I used to be in a tutoring institute where we were expected to do our corrections in green, so that they wouldn't be confused with the red ink used by the marker).
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#20 I am not a number

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 15:59

I started with blue at school, converted to black, found that too dull and have reverted to primarily blue with other colours used for specific purposes.
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