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.