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Green ink

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Green ink is a British journalistic term for the frothing of lunatics.[1][2][3] Back when letters to news outlets were produced in an archaic medium based on materials known as "paper" and "ink", the nutters would supposedly always write their IMPORTANT INFORMATION in green. It is not known just how many such letters there actually were, or if this is just urban legend, though there are occasional reports of physical manifestations.[4] Common comorbid characteristics include irrelevant capitalisation, religious mania, overuse of exclamation marks and veiled threats or warnings directed at the recipient. An article in The Observer about letters to the editor suggests avoidance of green ink.[5]

The term remains a useful metaphor for similar frothing in the electronic age, even though the pages are likely to include every colour rejected from the rainbow,[6] in a tasty variety of fonts. Though the truly exquisite green ink is often found in carefully-formatted black and white PDFs.

One possible reason for people to use green ink to give them extra authority is that Captain Sir George Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the first director of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, commonly known as MI6, Military Intelligence, Section 6) always used green ink and would sign documents with a green "C" (for "chief"), a practice that subsequent chiefs of SIS have followed.[7] Green ink was also the way in which the guardian of an underage Roman emperor would sign his charge's correspondence.[8]

See also[edit]

External inks[edit]


  1. Green Ink letter, World Wide Words
  2. "Oh for the days of green ink", Victoria Coren, Grauniad, 30 January 2011
  3. Bile from the green brigade (Northern Echo, 29 May 2006) — "I once had a letter from a green ink regular, signed Paul the Apostle, telling me I was "the spawn of the horned devil and a wicked whore from hell"."
  4. http://lesswrong.com/lw/1mm/advice_for_ai_makers/1gv2?c=1
  5. So, you want to write to the editor (Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 3 February 2002)
  6. http://haigreport.com is the all-time champion here.
  7. UK Politics 286128 at news.bbc.co.uk
  8. Alexander Allen, Ph.D, "Atramentum". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D (ed.), John Murray, London, 1875.