People often ask me what I use my pens for. Most days, it's either note-taking in meetings, editing, or outlining. Marking up documents like legal briefs and memos is probably where I burn through the most ink. But what makes an ink great for editing and annotation? Most people would say “it has to be red,” and true enough, I love red inks. There’s also a school of thought that red ink is inappropriate for grading/mark-ups because it has a negative connotation (especially in schools), and that you should branch out on the color spectrum. I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that the color red is pejorative, but I’m all for using different as many different colors of ink as possible. (Obviously).
When I’m deciding which ink to use in my “editing pens,” several characteristics are nonnegotiable:
- Bright colors. You want your marks to stand out on the page. This becomes especially important if you are editing punctuation, where marks might be fairly small. Don’t edit using a black pen. I have partners who do this and it drives me insane. Same with pencils. I love to use pencils at work, just not for marking stuff up.
- Good flow. Avoid inks that tend to dry up on the nib and hard start if you leave the cap off the pen for thirty seconds. Also, I typically edit using an extra-fine or needlepoint nib, so any ink I use for editing or annotation MUST work well in these pens.
- Quick dry time. You don’t want to hand someone a marked-up document and have the ink smudge all over their fingers. The combination of a mess and comments that are nearly impossible to read won't endear you to your co-workers.
- Works well on cheap paper. Let’s just say that most of the documents I work with on a daily basis don’t get printed out on Clairefontaine or Rhodia.
The Top 5 Inks for Editing
So what makes the grade? Here are my “Top 5 Inks for Editing and Annotation.” As with most of my "Top 5" lists, I've included a link to a full review of the ink (either mine or someone else's) and a purchasing option.
- Sheaffer Skrip Red. I’ll start with the most classic and the most economical. Sheaffer Skrip Red is one of the best “pure red” inks on the market, and it’s cheap. Sheaffer inks in general are highly underrated. (Purchase Here)
- Akkerman #28 (Hofkwartier Groen). You want something that’s going to stand out? This grass-green ink jumped very quickly to the top of my list and I’ve had it loaded in at least two pens since I purchased it. Not the cheapest alternative, but it works well on most papers, and you get both a large volume and a cool bottle. (Purchase Here)
- Sailor Jentle Apricot. I have no idea why Sailor discontinued what I and many others considered the best orange ink ever, but despair not because it’s coming back . . . sort of. This Fall, Sailor will re-release the remaining “Four Seasons” inks, including Kin-Mokusei, an orange Apricot-clone. I already have several bottles of Apricot, so I’m not in the market, but if you’ve missed this ink in the past grab it now! (Pre-Order Here, or if you can't wait, Bung Box Oranges of Lake Hamana is a solid - but pricey - alternative.)
- Bung Box Norwegian Wood. For some reason, I gravitate to green and orange for a lot of editing, when I’m not using red. I love Sailor inks, so Bung Box Norwegian Wood is my favorite Kelly/Irish Green color. It’s extremely expensive, so if I had to recommend a more economical color, I’d go with Montblanc’s excellent Irish Green. (Purchase Bung Box Here / Montblanc Irish Green Here)
- Kaweco Ruby. Kaweco’s inks don’t get nearly enough love. If I’m carrying a Kaweco pen, more often than not I’m using a cartridge of Kaweco Ruby, which is my favorite color of the bunch (though the new Sunrise Orange is growing on me). (Purchase Here)
I have drawers and shelves full of absolutely insane ink colors that I’ve used to edit (often with interesting results at work). A few that I use regularly but for one reason or another won’t make the Top 5:
- Callifolio Adrinople. A pinkish red ink that I’ve enjoyed using. An interesting color without being eye-searing. What keeps it out of the Top 5 so far is that Callifolio inks aren’t very saturated, and therefore they sometimes have a hard time standing out in very fine nibs. (Purchase Here)
- Noodler’s Apache Sunset. If you don’t mind a little bleed through, and you use a very fine nib to minimize the dry time, this is an awesome reddish orange and one of the only Noodler’s Inks that I use on a regular basis. The fact that you have to be really finicky about the pen and paper you use with this ink keeps it off the Top 5 list. (Purchase Here)
- Bung Box Sapphire. If I feel like editing in blue, I use this ink because it pops so much. A beautiful, though pricey, color. I’ll gladly pay for this Bung Box ink because I haven’t yet found an alternative I like nearly as much. (Purchase Here)
- Montblanc Alfred Hitchcock. Best blood-red ink EVER. But totally discontinued years ago, and therefore really unfair to include on a "Top 5" list. Franklin-Christoph's new Urushi Red and Diamine Oxblood are both solid alternatives.
Any inks that you think should be included on this list but aren't? I'm all ears!
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