Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is it disrespectful to write in red ink?

I've been told it was once considered disrespectful to write a letter in red ink. What do you think? The reason I pose this question is because I'm hooked on the J. Herbin Rouge Hematite 1670 anniversary ink. Thoughts?

23 comments:

  1. Not today between friends though some people do consider it taboo and for business work it certainly is not appropriate. But in times of old the Emperor of the Romans alone(Byzantines) would sign in red. This was a privilege a Byzantine Emperor one day accorded as a special honor (one of three) unto the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, who still signs his name in cinnabar today.

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  2. Personally, I don't have an issue with it (and I wouldn't have an issue with it if corresponding with someone who is a friend). Part of the taboo might come from the age-old maxim that teachers must use red pens, and the red ink can often bring back bad memories of the papers we wrote (and tough English teachers tore to shreds) back in high school! (No, I'm not blaming the teachers for the taboo.) :-)

    However, I know that some cultures tend to put negative stigmas on the color red (especially bright reds). In respect of that, I'll typically opt for a deeper shade like Visconti Burgundy, R&K's Scabiosa (which is more deep purple than it is red) if writing a note to a customer.

    Just my two cents...take 'em with appropriate measures of salt! :-)

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  3. What Zeus said.
    See also the comments on Roland Barthes:

    "Colour is an impulse; we are afraid to sign our messages with it; that is why we write black; we only allow ourselves well-ordered, flatly emblematic exceptions: blue for distinction, red for correction. Any change of colour [toute saute de couleur] is partly incongruous: can you imagine yellow, pink, or even grey missives? Books in red-brown, in forest-green, in Indian blue? And yet, who knows if the meaning of the words would not be changed?"

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  4. I agree with everything said thus far. It is a hold over from stuffy old traditions about what is proper. If you like the ink then write with it, the content of what you write is more important. I wouldn't mind getting a red inked note, unless someone was trying to be fresh or something!
    I do agree that it probably isn't best for an office setting or on professional documents where a more sober color is best but for a thank you note from a pen maker I think it is perfectly apropos.

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  5. I personally don't think there is anything wrong with writing in red, though I do think it inappropriate for formal/business correspondence, like a note to your boss. A traditional blue or black is more appropriate in that context.

    There is a lot of interesting information available on the psychology of colors and color theory. Certain colors do arouse different emotions, whether we consciously recognize it or not. Designers spend a great deal of time studying color theory and use it when doing projects.

    What I wonder is, do colors arouse certain emotions due to our personal experiences (red ink from scary English teachers, as Ryan said earlier), or are we hard wired to feel certain things when we see certain colors? Chicken or the egg...

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  6. I don't see red as a problem for personal use and I really don't hope any of my pen friends see it as disrespectful - they've got a fair share of letters written (at least partly) with red inks. :D I'd say that for "prof/office" use the safe inks (if one works in a place) are muted and non-bright.

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  7. Yikes, there is a lot of emphasis on the details as opposed to the message. So, what do you have to say? Who cares what color? We inkophiles have a thing for color, and that is our issue. Folk should focus upon the message!!!

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  8. But anonymous! In a way you are correct but we inkophiles are all about more than just the message. That is why we choose graceful writing, even in magnificent colors, with beautiful writing instruments upon gorgeous paper, over plain text in an email. We are the ones who are all about detail, but in a more refined, cultured (I do not mean snobbish), and personally revealing sort of communication. Our colors are important for just this reason.

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  9. Oh, I love the Barthes qoute... He hypothesized that color would/could change the meaning of printed words. And I think it does. In printed matter more so than hand-written. (Think ads). I remember reading Aura, by Carlos Fuentes, a novel completely written in the second person (singular) and it was printed in green/gray. It was quite apropriate to the narrative experiment. (A first edition, I think, but I don't recall the publisher. I read it over 20 years ago...)

    As to the red, I expect to receive a lot of letters in Rouge Hematite in the near future. Most everyone I know is enthralled with the color AND with what it represents. Brilliant marketing of an excellent product.

    Isabel

    Palimpsest, I'd love the reference for the Barthes quote...

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  10. Seems like unless you are writing to an old Chinese person hooked on tradition, it probably would be ok to use red ink for personal correspondence. Fond this tidbit after a bit of "Googling": "In ancient times the color red was reserved for the dead. The names of the deceased were written, painted, or engraved in red on gravestones and plaques in the village centers. Even today many traditional people will get nervous if you write their name down in red. To write a living person's name in red means they will die soon or you want them dead."

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  11. Yikes, there is a lot of emphasis on the details as opposed to the message. So, what do you have to say? Who cares what color? We inkophiles have a thing for color, and that is our issue. Folk should focus upon the message!!!

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  12. Personally, I don't have an issue with it (and I wouldn't have an issue with it if corresponding with someone who is a friend). Part of the taboo might come from the age-old maxim that teachers must use red pens, and the red ink can often bring back bad memories of the papers we wrote (and tough English teachers tore to shreds) back in high school! (No, I'm not blaming the teachers for the taboo.) :-)

    However, I know that some cultures tend to put negative stigmas on the color red (especially bright reds). In respect of that, I'll typically opt for a deeper shade like Visconti Burgundy, R&K's Scabiosa (which is more deep purple than it is red) if writing a note to a customer.

    Just my two cents...take 'em with appropriate measures of salt! :-)

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  13. Apparently you put yourself in the "crazy" bracket if you write in green ink, so writing with red shouldn't be a problem!

    Seriously, I think that you, as a writer, need to consider to whom you are writing. I doubt many people would chose to write to their bank manager in red (they would pick a conservative black or blue) but if you were writing a passionate letter to a lover....black might not send the right message - red would.

    Is it disrespectful? Maybe, but I think most fountain pen users would know if the recipient would consider the use of red ink to be disrespectful, so if it were disrespectful that would probably be the point.

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  14. Indeed! The recipient needs to be considered. Just as when you're talking to your spouse it's quite appropriate to speak informally, but not necessarily in a job interview....how the message will be received determines more the appropriateness of the usage more than just the color itself in a letter.

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  15. it is not good to write in red ink because the person you are sending it to would feel disrecpeted or tretend

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  16. This is what I've been told, but I think that's a more traditional view. I wasn't raising with fountain pens (or letter writing much at all), so when I receive a letter in red ink, all I think is 'oooh, that's a nice red!'.

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  17. Well, my personal opinion matters little. But I will voice it nonetheless. The colour of the ink you write with, only matters to YOU.  If you are writing a letter to your boss, you might THINK that he/she will be offended by a red/purple/green missive, and if you do, then by all means use a colour that you find appropriate.  If you THINK a conservative blue, black or black/blue will be better, then go for it.  But realize, you are doing this not because your boss/bank manager/parole officer (;)) will be offended. No, you do this because you THINK they will be offended.  And most likely they wont.

    To receive a hand written letter in our modern day and age, shows a lot more respect than receiving a computer printed letter with a hasty signature scribbled on it.  And the ink is just the final icing on the cake here.  Sure, I won't write a letter of condolences in bright pink. Not because I think the receiving party will be offended, but rather that it offends ME.  Do what you think is right, don't worry about other people too much ;)

    As I said at the start, just my opinion.  Use it, or not.  It matters little :)

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  18. I appreciate your perspective! I'm inclined to agree, I think in this modern day and age, it's flattering just to get a handwritten letter. I can't imagine most people being offended by any color of a fully-handwritten letter.

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  19. When I studied Portuguese in college in the mid-1980s, we were taught that in Portugal and Brazil it's considered very disrespectful to write in red ink to anyone.

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  20. That's what I was taught growing up in the US, too. But I think as writing of any kind has become incredibly rare in today's world, I think the color of ink matters far less than it used to. Interestingly enough, I've also been told by many in the legal and medical professions that black ink is actually not allowed on most documents, because it's too easy to copy. Vibrant colored ink is harder to forge!

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  21. When I was young (in ancient times!) writing a letter in red was considered bad manners, UNLESS, it was a love letter. So if someone wrote to you in red, you might not be upset at all. Also, it was a "tradition" (secret code?) to put the stamp upside down if you had feelings for the recipient. Such innocent fun!

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  22. So what if you had feelings for the person you were writing to disrespectfully? ;) That's neat about the upside down stamp, I've never heard that!

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  23. My Mail Carrier father didn't provide me with the disrespectful option, Brian. :-) (in the 70's you leave off the stamp and it would be collected at the other end. That would have worked. But it was changed back to Return to Sender). "Rouge Hematite" would be welcome in any letter, IMHO!

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