Writing in Red: Choosing the color of your ink in business communications

by epi on July 3, 2012

Q: Is it improper to use red ink when writing a business letter, especially one that includes an apology for poor performance?

A: Red ink should be used for corrections and editing, while blue or black ink is generally used for handwritten communications.  I think it would be odd to handwrite an entire letter in red ink, regardless of the subject.  In fact, business communications are usually word processed (typed, in the old terminology) in black ink, rather than written longhand.  The only time it’s appropriate to handwrite a business communication is when you’re sending a personal note to someone — thanking the person for taking you to lunch, for example. A corollary issue is what color of ink to use when signing a communication.  Again, the tradition of using black or blue ink for your signature is one that still stands.  Lately, I find that I’m increasingly being asked to sign forms and documents in blue ink to differentiate the original signed document from facsimile or photo copies.  With color copiers coming into wider use, however, even signing in blue may not be acceptable in the future.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Deanna Stewart August 21, 2012 at 11:35 am

I was drawn to website after just leaving my son’s school having a conference with the princpal and his teacher about correspondence she sent me written in red ink with underlining, circles and exclamation points ALL in red ink. I was very offended by the note, hence prompting the conference; however, the administration at the school thought the teacher was not out of line with what she did and expressed to me that my concern was “old-fashioned” and teachers may communicate in any color ink. I am still uneasy about it all and wanted your input.

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Alicia August 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I’d say the content of the note matters more then the color. Is it the ideal to write in red probably not. However, having a conference with the administrator is a bit much. Saying “Please do not write in red ink to me as it comes across as correcting ” would not be too much. If I was the administrator I too would backup the teacher to write in whatever color ink they like and then privately ask them to not use red ink to send notes in the future. If the content is fine and the teacher is communicating needed things about your son I would focus on that and ignore others ink color selections.
It is not technically wrong or rude just not commonly used to use colored ink.

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Elley October 15, 2012 at 5:02 am

Actually it is very rude to use red ink in any written communication. I would complaint to the principal on this matter rather then the administration. Also telling parent one thing and telling the teachers not to do it is also a very rude and unprofessional manner in handling this situation.

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