4.02.2010

Forms and Fountain Pens


With the 2010 Census stuffed in mail boxes around the US and dutiful taxpayers filing their taxes (for better or worse), Americans are filling out important forms this month. As a retailer of fine-writing goods, we often get the question of which type of pen is best for the job?

Forms can be tricky, so pay careful attention to the type of form you are writing on before whipping out a Lamy Safari with Fiesta Red ink. The Census, for example, clearly says to write in only blue or black ink. Would Blue-Black be acceptable? Do you want to invite the census workers to call you out on it? The main purpose of using blue or black ink is to provide the most contrast against the white paper. Especially when photocopied or electronically scanned, lighter colors will not show up as clearly.

Another thing you want to look for is if the form has a carbon (or carbon-less) copy attached. The carbon copy needs enough pressure exerted by the tip of the pen on the top form in order to make an impression on the bottom copy. Fountain pens and rollerball pens are generally not recommended for these types of forms since the writer is supposed to use little to no force in pressing with the tip or nib. Either your writing will never reach the bottom page or you will snap the tines on your fountain pen nib trying to do so.

Any forms or papers that need to be faxed, scanned or e-mailed should be written in a dark ink, but the mode of pen choice is completely up to you. Signatures are usually easier with a rollerball pen or fountain pen. If you're signing many documents a day, you may find yourself with hand cramps if jotting them with a ballpoint pen. However, the utility and convenience of a twist-action or click-top ballpoint pen may come in handy if you're signing on-the-go.

Ink color can be a sensitive issue in a business environment. While showing personality and individuality, choosing an ink color other than the standard blue or black can come off as unprofessional and may be looked down upon by your boss and peers. Imagine that your coworker Bernice always hands you phone messages, TPS reports and important memos written in bright pink against white paper. Her eyes might be able to take the punishing onslaught of fuchsia, but you are popping a Tylenol every afternoon for some unknown reason...

A good way to tell what ink colors are business appropriate is the same way we observe attire. See what others are using in their pens. Most darker colors are suitable in a casual office environment. Typically, a standard red should only be reserved for those who are editing or grading papers. Since there is such a strong mental connection to the color red as a "warning" or "error," you should refrain from using it when filling out forms or participating in office correspondence.

What kind of pens and inks do you use in your day-to-day business writing? Have you experienced any double-takes or refusal to accept a form written in an odd ink color? As always, your feedback is much appreciated!

5 comments:

  1. I've never had a form rejected for being the "wrong" color of ink. I frequently write checks in red, purple, or orange.

    Since 99% of my job is electronic, my writing is mostly the notes I take. For day-to-day work, I'll pick whatever color suits my mood. I typically have a rollerball or ball point with blue or black ink near by, just in case I need to step up a notch.

    However, if I know I'm going to be writing in front of a VIP (a client, for instance), I'll bring an all-business pen (such as my all-black Aurora Talentum) loaded with blue or black ink.

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  2. Hmm, already sent in my Census form over a week ago. That would be interesting to have the census takers show up at your door and get into an involved conversation about permissible writing implements. Probably not the strangest issue those guys have to deal with on the job.

    At my last place of employment the only people who used red ink to write notes to people were the Accountants - and they were never pleasant notes. I was in charge of ordering office supplies (and controlling costs). Had some pretty heated exchanges with those folks about what the company would and wouldn't pay for as far a pens go. I always just bought my own if I wanted a nicer pen for use at the office (and hid it so my coworkers wouldn't steal it).

    Daisy McCarty
    San Diego Office Furniture

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  3. @Mr. Guilt : Having an all-business pen, like you said, is a great idea to make a favorable impression on a client or executive. Especially if your other option is a lime green Lamy. I do the same thing with checks, but I try not to use lighter color inks because they tend to wash-off easier if anyone wanted to tamper with it.

    @Daisy : They did hire a whole bunch of people to work on the census this year, so I'm sure there's a division devoted to correcting people who didn't fill out the form with the proper color ink or *gasp* with pencil. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Whenever I see any forms that explicitly list "blue or black", I always am tempted to use a really light shade of blue. There are plenty of sky-blue types of inks that I'm sure would photocopy worse than my dark green pen noodler's ink would.

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  5. I've never had a form rejected for being the "wrong" color of ink. I frequently write checks in red, purple, or orange.

    Since 99% of my job is electronic, my writing is mostly the notes I take. For day-to-day work, I'll pick whatever color suits my mood. I typically have a rollerball or ball point with blue or black ink near by, just in case I need to step up a notch.

    However, if I know I'm going to be writing in front of a VIP (a client, for instance), I'll bring an all-business pen (such as my all-black Aurora Talentum) loaded with blue or black ink.

    ReplyDelete