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Ink Color Etiquette


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I have pens inked mostly with varying shades of blues and black in my case, as well as one green, purple, gray, red black, and Galileo brown.


I use "conservative" blues and blue blacks for business correspondence, black works well on most of our accounting records, and the Galileo brown works perfectly on other records. No one has yet challenged my inks at work. The other colors are to put some variety in my own notes, personal correspondence, etc. I like to mix those up on occasion, and I have quite a multicolored selection of inks at home.


I do like how red black and Galileo show up on ivory/buff/ecru colored papers, though. But until now, I've never really thought about what certain colors may represent to others. I may need to think about this a little on some of my upcoming correspondence.

Scribere est agere.

To write is to act.


Danitrio Fellowship

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Regarding green ink, here is one view:




you get green ink letter if you work in politics, too. To the point where, when sorting the mail each day, there was a designated green ink "section" comprising two pile - the regular correspondents who received no reply (they'd write in at least once a month, every month, for years, with unreasonable demands or arguments - if they had a legit point they got a reply, but after a while you learn to recognise the names and skim-read only, only so many hours in the day and all that), and the nutters who would get a reply (usually first-time or more sporadic writers, and green inkers finally presenting something worthy of a response). I still can't stand the though of using green ink because of this, and can only get around the aversion by convincing myself that Diamine's Teal is in fact a blue (according to Dulux's paint magazine it is, ooohhhh thread-idea).


What an Oxford tutor does is to get a little group of students together and smoke at them. Men who have been systematically smoked at for four years turn into ripe scholars... A well-smoked man speaks and writes English with a grace that can be acquired in no other way.

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Black, blue, and blue black are the only acceptable colors for either business correspondence or formal social correspondence.


A brown ink on a cream colored paper to give a vintage look *might* be the only exception to the above rule.


Red, orange, purple, and green inks are definitely only for personal use, i.e., shopping lists, diaries, notes to family members, love letters, etc.



"The moment he opened the refrigerator, he saw it. Caponata! Fragrant, colorful, abundant, it filled an entire soup dish, enough for at least four people.... The notes of the triumphal march of Aida came spontaneously, naturally, to his lips." -- Andrea Camilleri, Excursion to Tindari, p. 212

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Had the occasion to sign the obligatory departmental Christmas

greeting the other day.


It's a given I was the only signer using a fountain pen.


Then I realized I'd be the only one using blue ink.


Borrowed a black ballpoint because mine was not going

to be the only signature sitting there sticking out like

a sore thumb ... only to realize it will be copied

on a "black and white only" copier and then distributed to other departments.


Should have just used my pen.

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

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I'm about to order some Noodlers green marine from swisher pens...although I looked up the Zhivago and might get some of that instead, for all purpose green writing. Noodlers standard green also looked nice.


My AP Lit. teacher has been OK in letting me write with a green pilot Vpen. My AP US History teacher also said it looked nice, although in Stat + Prob I use blue...my stats teacher gets cranky about color.

Edited by J0rdan


"A pen is certainly an excellent instrument to fix a man's attention and to inflame his ambition."

-John Adams

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I think you shouldn't be bound by etiquette and should write in any damn colour you please. I refuse to let my ink be determined by those who couldn't tell a Noodlers Baystate Concord Grape from a Waterman Violet!

"que le cœur de l'homme est creux et plein d'ordure."

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I think you shouldn't be bound by etiquette and should write in any damn colour you please. I refuse to let my ink be determined by those who couldn't tell a Noodlers Baystate Concord Grape from a Waterman Violet!


I agree, although I still like to be aware of what message or tone the ink color might set.

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  • 3 years later...

Black, blue-black, and blue are the old stand-by colors. It also seems that brown is acceptable as lond as it is a deep shade. Personally, I wouldnt use anything thats bright like purple or green. Just my 2 cents

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Interestingly enough, a while back I read an Agatha Christie mystery which hinged somewhat on (fountain pen) ink. Forget the title offhand -- _Hickory Dickory Dock_ maybe -- but it's the one with the students in a youth hostel. One of the characters uses green ink (mostly just to irritate other people) and the first murder victim refills her pen from his bottle (because she's out of Quink!). When she's found dead, at first they think it's a suicide, but then the woman who manages the hostel realizes that the "note" wasn't written in green, after remembering having seen the girl refill her pen from the other guy's bottle....

Most legal papers I've had to sign in "not black" to prove it was the original copy. But when I was having some minor surgery last spring I was required to sign stuff with black -- which meant I had to use a ballpoint, because I didn't have a pen with me that had black ink in it (which mostly I don't because I don't especially like black ink; I put it in the 45 mostly to go through the bottle of Quink I have, but once that's gone I'll probably put something blue in the pen instead -- maybe Liberty's Elysium because it's such a great color, or PR American Blue).

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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I work in engineering where colors have definite meaning.


Black - personal use or first draft only. Most writing is editing documents and drawings so you want edits to be obvious.

Blue - general notes, questions, and indicTing moving text or drawing objects. Also for signing documents and drawings.

Red - this is what is being added to a document or drawing.

Green - used to delete items

Other colors - typical each discipline has a color for group review to finalize drawings and the colors are specific to each engineering company.


So far I've used a Parker 51 with blue ink for my main pen since blue is by far my most used ink. PR American Blue is what I'm currently using, but I'm considering a move to J. Herein Éclat de Sapphire. I've just order a couple pens for red and green. I'm going with Noodler's Nikita for my Red as I like the color and the water resistance reviews have shown. I ordered some samples of greens so I can test several out before order a bottle of whatever I decide I like.

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