Please Sign In Blue Ink

For the past 15 years, I’ve signed everything in green ink. I don’t remember how it started – it just did. I think I found a green Paper Mate felt tip pen that I liked and just started using it. So – if you have something from me signed in green, you know it’s an original. Otherwise it’s a copy or has an electronic signature.

About once a month I get a document back from a lawyer with the request to “please sign in blue ink.” I’ve always found that amusing, so I do.

This morning I wandered by my partner Jason’s office and told him about the regular, recurring requests to please sign in blue ink. He looked at me like I was from Mars, which might be true. I showed him the request. He said, “I don’t remember which class in law school taught that documents need to be signed in blue ink.”

Just a reminder that it takes a long, long time for archaic business practices to completely disappear. Fax machine anyone?

  • DaveJ

    For even more grins, you should respond to the lawyer by saying “No.” Not “no, I don’t see why I should have to do that,” or some other explanation. Just “No.” And see what he or she does. Maybe you’ll even get an answer to your question, though I doubt it. It would be interesting to see to whom the lawyer complains and on what basis.

    (BTW, blue ink or green ink demonstrate nothing in a world of ubiquitous color scanners – it does NOT mean it’s an original).

    • Good point on the ubiquitous color scanners.

  • As a severely color-blind person, I’ve several times had documents sent back to me because I signed them in red without knowing it. So apparently the “no green” rule has a “no red” corollary. It’s literally all the same to me.

    • Well said Mr. ColorBlind.

    • DaveJ

      @nsbnsb:disqus it’s been my impression that you see Red and Blue very clearly when it comes to politics. 😉

      • Well, blue’s not a problem for most color blind folks. Mark Zuckerberg is like me, that’s why Facebook is so blue. Interestingly, what I confuse is red and green – Communists and Environmentalists? It’s all good…

  • When I “sign” documents in Preview I always set the color to a blue. It is amazing how much more credibility that seems to give my completely digital signature.

    • So bizarre but logical.

  • Chris Chaten

    These days, it’s for quick scanning purposes, primarily. Signing in black makes it tough to glance at all the signature and initial boxes. I’m sure the specificity also helps in the same way a rider for a band does (eg the all red M&M clauses). Makes sure they read the specifics to prevent larger issues like safety concerns.

    • Yes, but why not in green?

  • Signing in blue helps the lawyer, legal assistant, secretary, et al. differentiate between the original and printed copies. It stopped mattering, in litigation at least, when most US fed and state courts moved to electronic filing and electronic signing.

    • Yes, but why not green?

      • Dunno. Could be a quirk of state law (doubt it) or because you’re just blowing your attorneys’ minds with that green ink (more likely). No one signs in green. Only black or blue.

        • Hah. But at least one person in the universe signs in green – me.

          • Mark

            Lack of imagination. On the other hand, just be glad it wasn’t truly lawyered up: “Please sign in a color other than black, including but not limited to, blue.”

          • dstudeba

            Baseball great Ty Cobb always signed and wrote letters in green ink. Very recognizable.

      • I think the attorney’s are simply saying “don’t sign in _black_ ink.” blue is the other dominant pen color. I’m sure green is fine at the end of the day for this “something other than black” context.

        • Actually, I signed in green. The lawyer sent it back and asked “please sign in blue.”

          • aaaaaand bizarre.

          • Jeff Bodle

            I see no issue with green as different than black the same way blue is different than black. The only thing i could think of is if it were real estate or bank financing related perhaps the bank internal compliance rules require blue ink in any documents signed and delivered to the bank. Sometimes real estate/mortgage/bank financing docs have more peculiarities (probably the only place left where you need true original signatures).

          • Bill Adkins

            Is now when you counter to change the doc’s font to Palatino in order to meet their blue-ink demand?

  • Ricardo Barrera

    “A form of ink that predates fountain pens by centuries is Iron gall ink. This blue-black ink is made from iron salts and tannic acids from vegetable sources. It was used in fountain pens when they were invented….” – ???

  • Jürgen Osterberg

    When I was in school, the headmaster always used to control a subset of all written exams. Whereas the teachers all used red ink, he was the only one using green ink. So having a remark or signature in green you could be sure that Principal Skinners collegue had had a glimpse on your piece of work.

  • Great post, this has been bothering me lately, we are in a complete free for all state. I try to sign everything in Adobe/Echosign (which can be authenticated to a LinkedIn account etc.) to maintain an archive of signed docs. So easy. Pen and ink signing is such a waste of time! Keep using green!

  • John Beales

    I read somewhere, (I can’t remember where… maybe FPN), that green is the colour that traditionally auditors use. Perhaps your lawyer doesn’t want you to be mistaken for an auditor.

  • If someone asks for a fax, I ask what year they’d like it sent to.

    • bnme

      When our company’s fax machine died, we debated whether or not we should buy a new one or finally force all our customers to contact us by e-mail (for the ones who still sent us faxes).

      We ended up purchasing a new machine after several customers voiced that their procedures required them to send purchase orders by fax.

      Also, none of the digital/online fax services seemed worth their cost.

  • I can imagine it’s (mentally) exhausting, but please keep signing in green. We need more green pens in the world.

  • tgodin

    I had an XO in the Navy who used to use green pen/felt tip for notes, memos, etc. When you saw green you immediately knew it was from him and probably important to look at. I’ve adopted the practice. Always sign official stuff in black or blue, however.

    • StevenHB

      Why is it necessary always to sign official stuff in black or blue?

      • tgodin

        Just habit for me. There are certainly forms that state explicitly that you must use blue or black ink, and I just do for others. I would guess that 99% of people use blue or black ink exclusively anyways.

  • Dakota Bailey

    Try a nice blue-green next time, see what the lawyers say about that:

  • panterosa,

    I’m glad you raised this point, and love you are tenacious about signing in green. I have a fountain pen I sign everything with. I used to sign in violet, and my lawyer let me get away with it because I was an artist, and they repp’ed several, and it was a”blue like” color. I have also signed in turquoise, and now I sign in red violet(purple). I have a rainbow “wardrobe” of in cartridges for that pen for my mood. I love Waterman!

    • Love it – very colorful!

  • Dave

    Love your post. I’m a lawyer at a company who signed a lot of stuff–thousands of customer contracts, bank documents, acquisition docs every year. I generally used green because I typically take notes on calls in green so had a green pen handy. I found it easier to see the notes in green, but also used red and purple. I avoided blue because I found it too difficult to read quickly with black type. I stopped signing in red when a couple of people in a row told me that signing in red was bad luck in many cultures. Never found out of that was true but they were people I trusted so I stopped signing in red.

    I sign a lot less now that we use Docusign. The only people who care about originals that I’ve seen lately are debt lawyers, for reasons no one can fathom or explain. Funny thing is that my electronic signature scan, which I can drop into a Word doc and convert to PDF is blue. So it is in blue but not an original at all in the normal sense.

  • You are evidently an anarchist and not to be trusted.

    • You’ve figured me out.

  • kermit64113

    This one hits home as I am married to an attorney who insists on signing in blue for the same reasons outlined by Mr. Torres below. The thing I need to worry about when I grab the blue pen is remembering to put it back in the place where I found it. It’s not just the signature, it’s also the writing instrument! (woe to the husband or child who misplaces “Mom’s Blue Pen.”) – Jim P

  • htom

    For several decades I used a blend of Parker permanent red and blue ink, which made a pretty eggplant color. Now I use Noodler’s La Reine Mauve. There are several things going on in the “sign with blue”; color is distinguishable from black so originals can be found, usually black and blue were more permanent (not true), and blue was the common color available that wasn’t black.. If you look you can find a “non-reproducing blue” ink, which can be great fun, for some values of fun..

  • ed

    FAX machine anyone? ehhh tell that to the Japanese, in Japan they still use FAXes

  • TamiMForman

    My husband is a financial planner and he has his clients sign everything in blue. Same reason — he needs to know instantly when he is going through a file is something is original or a photocopy.

    • disambiguation

      Yep. That’s why I like things signed in colored ink.

  • Peter Neame

    Faxes – still ubiquitous in the medical industry. Though, of course, the medical industry is about 20 years behind every other technology

  • Fax machines have not disappeared. What planet (or state) are you from? 🙂

    • disambiguation

      They just won’t go away. I’m dealing with a person in Florida who has no email address but sends a Fax every couple days. My office still has a fax. It’s a law firm.

  • Flam, Damn, bam! I hate when I put my two cents in, finish it off choose my send and it goes around and around and around and my post never gets there. Gone, wiped out, disappeared! Well the short version: I always believed it was black ink! This is first I’m hearing of The Blues. Well i’m gonna chalk this one up to Crackerjacks with the surprise missing from the box. I’ll get a re-do if it’s meant to be. Thanks for the wisdom Brad and everyone else that got their comments up!

    Great little read but the submission shouldn’t take as long as the instruction manual!

  • I’m also a green pen writer (see, and similarly got the ‘please sign in blue or black’ speech from our attorneys just this afternoon. It appears the pace of change is just as slow here in NYC.