Question: Which ink color (black or blue) is legally binding when signing legal or contract documents?

Answer: Thanks a lot … I expected this question to require five minutes to research. An hour later, I am still reading about early Chinese dynasties and American Colonial customs. A signature is one’s personal and unique mark. It serves as evidence that a person saw a document and/or agrees with its terms.

Have people always used ink to make their mark?

A 2019 article discusses evidence of signed agreements dating back to the 2nd century. Signatures were used more widely in the 1600s, with an English law called the Statute of Frauds. In other countries, such as China, wax seals are still used to bind an agreement.

Some more primitive customs involved:

a) handing over a clump of dirt in a real estate transaction,

b) cutting off a lock of hair, or

c) violence (commonly a slap) to associate physical pain with the deal struck.

Regardless, the pen is mightier than the sword. Ask anyone who regrets signing their timeshare contract.

What ink color is officially legal?

All colors will work. However, avoid colors other than black or blue, as copying can wash out lighter ink colors. Certain government entities require black ink, while others require blue ink. Some reasons include: black ink being compatible with older scanning technology or blue ink being more distinctive against black text. Either way, follow the instructions on government, business, or financial forms for the required ink color. Without any specific directions, the choice is yours.

Need help with a business or real estate transaction? Priority Law offers free consultations.

Attorney James Haroutunian is founder of Priority Law. This article was originally published in the Lowell Sun and is for informational purposes only and not to be relied on as legal advice, in any manner.