Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blue Pens or Black Pens?

Blue pens. Of course blue pens. Because they contrast better with the documents you're writing on, which invariably use black ink.

Most recent example: Every so often I glance over a draft of my first chapter that has been sitting in my satchel for a while (usually when I have nothing else to read). This draft was marked up by one of my friend/editors who, for reasons I can't fathom, is partial to black pens. Every time I pick up the chapter, I see another of her markings that I'd missed on previous scans. Why? Because the black pen blends in with the black type-face. If she had used blue, I wouldn't have had to go back to my now-posted chapter to add a comma here, a period there. What good is an editing suggestion if I can't see it? What am I paying her for? (In case you're wondering, I pay my editors in friendship).

Okay, you say. But what if you're writing on a clean sheet of paper? Still blue. Why? Because it's a color. Color stimulates the visual cortex. It stimulates. Color is beauty. Blue jeans. Blue eyes. Old blue eyes. The great blue ocean. A big blue sky. Smurfs.

Black is the absence of color. The absence of light. Black is depressing. It's evil. Black sucks.

Blue pens are better. The choice seems perfectly obvious to me, and yet black pens seem to be the office standard. Half the time I can't find a blue pen when I need one. I have to make a special request through our office manager. My mom literally gave me blue pens for Christmas last year.

It gets worse, because now I'm starting to suspect that black pen dominance does not merely reflect some fallacious though easily correctable business standard. I'm getting the sense that I may actually possess a minority opinion on this issue. Is the rest of the world that stupid?

Let's find out. If you're delusional, cast your vote for black pens in the top right corner of my blog. If you know what's up, join me in voting for blue.

Honor code: One person, one vote. Don't try to be cute and vote multiple times (from multiple computers or what have you). I want a clear and honest winner here. Polls close in one month, on December 19th. Blue!

Addendum: The results are in!  Check 'em out.


Kelly said...

Black pens look professional. I tried to vote multiple times but it didn't work. Laaame. ;)

jim cooney said...

You have to click your selection, THEN click the "Vote" button. Two-step process, babe.

Two and a half hours in it's a dead heat, 2 to 2.

Mindy said...

What about pencil? I prefer to correct in pencil, because I can erase whatever comment I made (if it turned out I was wrong), and because its grey color shows up on a piece of paper. Besides, the world's not black and blue, just shades of grey! :)

Mindy said...

but I voted black, none the less.

Amanda said...

Well the preference for black goes to the historic inability to copy blue ink - maybe that's still current, I haven't set foot in an office in about 12 years!!:D

Red would be my choice for corrections or editing (showing my age here) as that's what teachers always used at school.

Blue would be my choice for anything else, or maybe pencil, yes pencil for poly tunnel and shopping lists but blue else where.

Does this mean I have multiple personalities??

facebook chatter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
facebook chatter said...

facebook chatter said...
I hope this is not unkosher, but there's some good back and forth from Facebook that I feel compelled to share here! - Jim

Kristen Bettencourt Yesterday at 5:07pm

Are you crazy? Black pens, man. Seriously.

Michael O'Mara (Brown) Yesterday at 5:36pm

why only black or blue? what about green?

James R. Cooney Yesterday at 6:03pm

Green's fine if readily available, and if you don't mind your associates thinking you're a fruitcake.

Ryan Pifer (New York, NY) Yesterday at 6:19pm

Red Uni-ball pens should be the standard

Michael Barrett Yesterday at 6:50pm

i gotta go along with cooney on this one. blue, medium point, liquid (ie waterbased) ink

James R. Cooney Yesterday at 7:48pm

Hell yeah. Except there was this one time I had a fine point blue pen that didn't smear (as most fine points tend do). Quick-drying, wrote with minimal pressure. Best pen I ever had. Never have been able to find it since --- many pens look like it but none writes the same. A gift from the pen gods?

Natasha Nese Yesterday at 8:49pm
omigod black

Suraj Iyer Yesterday at 9:20pm

Blue is individual. If you use a black rollerball to write something and then use a black rollerball from a different brand, nobody will notice. Black ink says you're a conformist.

Use a blue rollerball, and then another blue rollerball from a different brand, and the difference is obvious.

Honestly, the way to go is to get a good fountain pen and pick out the particular shade of blue that you like. Each blue is different and says something different about you. 1/2 of them say "You're a homo that cares about the shade of blue?" The other half say "Damn that's a nice manly blue."

Fountain pens - Namiki vanishing point fountain pen with a retractable nib is really fine. The Parker Sonnet is the writer's pen. Both are fine choices.

For low cost, Pilot G-2 Gel Roller in blue... I think it runs like $2 per pen.

Suraj Iyer Yesterday at 9:22pm

Oh, the lack of difference in ink color between black inks is why they are preferred in offices. Imagine being 1/2 way through your notes and having to switch brands of black pens because the XXX was on sale and so they stocked it instead...

Lisa Zatkin Moss (Richmond, VA) Yesterday at 9:54pm

You had me at "smurf"

Ashley said...

Black black black black black. Maybe it's a legacy of having gone to an overly intense high school where people developed weird fetishes about taking their notes in different colors (purple for biology, orange for English, etc) but I love the austerity of black, the purity, the absence of anything distracting on the page...

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

I'm totally BLUE. Now everyone ... go to MY BLOG and read about how I've had sex FIVE DAYS IN A ROW!!


kelli said...

BLACK. Or some other color like purple or green if I'm in a weird mood. Blue is always my last choice.

Hi! Here visiting to take your poll after reading about Manic's sex life. :)

KLynn said...

Came here from the NY Times site...

My mother was a business-ed teacher and she always brought home black Bic Accountant fine-ballpoint pens. Ever since then, black fine-point pens (rollerball, fountain) have been my preferred mode of travel.

Of course anything will do in a pinch, even pencil (horrors!) but in the last couple of years I've returned to hand-printing first drafts in black ink.

jub said...

Without a doubt, the overuse of blue pens is why our economy is now in the toilet!:)

jim said...

Thanks Kelli!

See? I knew pen color was more interesting than sex.

TheRunawayPen said...

I prefer Blue personally. There is more of a visual warmth that accompanies blue ink. I have found that black ink symbolizes a finality that should only be used for Births, Deaths and paychecks. :)

PS. Jim I appreciate your kind comments on my page, very encouraging. Warmest Regards, Holly~

Anonymous said...

Black. I like the contrast between black and white, clean and spoiled. Of course, there are different types of pens for different purposes. For example, i like a ballpoint for taking notes quickly, i like a fine felt tip when i'm writing a nice note or card or something.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I did not get in on this before the voting ended. I would merely add that blue ink is nice for the added reason that it shows that the page is an original. With black water based ink the copy and original are almost indistinguishable.

Blue promotional pens said...

I guess it depends on the colour of the lines you are writting on to.. Or clients prefer 40% black 60% blue so i guess you cant please everyone all the time!

Anonymous said...

Blue Rocks!

Michelle Nelson said...

Blue ink is it! You hit the nail on the head! This is one of the very first things thatI learned as a member of an elite club. Well done!

Michelle Nelson
Global Information Network

Anonymous said...

It's far more complex than a simple blue vs black. It changes depending on the scenario.

At my desk.
I like to use yellow notepads when taking notes for a project I'm working on, because it's easier on my eyes than bright white. Blue looks funny to me on yellow. I use blue as a markup pen once in a blue moon, but black is always my main. The contrast is easier on my eyes.

I carry a blue to meetings. The folder I carry to meetings is loaded with a white notepad instead of my usual yellow, because clean white paper feels more professional than yellow (to me at least). Blue contrasts just fine on white paper. The only other case I'll use a pen in a meeting is to write on a (almost guaranteed black) handout, in which case I'll need ink that stands out.

In most other cases of markup (except my own notes, because really markup would just be more notes) I use blue.
In most other cases of just writing something down, I use black.

anne said...

You biased blue pen using fucker.

James Cooney said...

Ha ha! I'm so glad this post is still getting attention. Thanks for the smile (you black-pen-pushing neanderthal).

Kathleen Flo said...

I have a huge problem with this. In 2004 I did Army boot camp and a drill sergeant flipped out on me and made me do push ups for using a blue pen. I currently have a supervisor (in his sixties i believe) in an office job who also flips out if anyone uses a blue pen. Black only! I don't understand, it copies just as good as black and it's a benefit to tell which document is the original. I feel like black only is a very old fashioned thing and people really need to get over it. Some people are saying scanners and computers won't pick up the blue ink, bullshit, it's just as dark.

Anonymous said...

I use blue pen on white paper and black on other colored paper. Simple as that.