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!

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