(1) The words are written in a different-coloured ink.

To me, "a different-coloured ink" is nonsense because:
one colour corresponds to one ink;
different coloures can correspond only to different inks;
different coloures cannot correspond to one ink.

Why does "a different-coloured ink" make sense?

my variant:
(2) The words are written in different-coloured inks.
What is the difference between (1) and (2)?

  • 2
    The words refers to some specific words within some larger block of text. The specific words of interest are printed using a different colour ink to the main surrounding text. Introducing plural inks looks silly - it suggests the specific words of interest might be written using some kind of "rainbow" font where each letter uses a different colour. Sep 26 at 11:10
  • @FumbleFingers You wrote: "Introducing plural inks looks silly - ... some kind of "rainbow" font" Why is it silly? If you see a rainbow, you turn your head away with an angry face?
    – Loviii
    Sep 26 at 11:49
  • 1
    @Loviii - look up the definition of 'twisting my words'. Sep 26 at 11:52
  • 1
    It's "silly" because to this native speaker, with plural inks the words don't make sense (or, as I suggested, they imply a bizarre scenario). You yourself said that using singular ink is "nonsense". The difference is I'm right and you're wrong, but I'm not getting angry about anything. Sep 26 at 11:53
  • 1
    "I saw a big dog yesterday. Today I saw a different dog." I guess the OP wouldn't consider that grammatical either. (Although I admit that usage examples in dictionaries often don't give enough context to see exactly how they're used.)
    – Stuart F
    Sep 26 at 13:30

2 Answers 2


different-colo(u)red inks refers to inks of multiple colors.

She drew a picture of a flower garden using different-coloured inks.

"different-colored ink" could be paraphrased as "ink of a different color"

We're using blue ink for "garage sale". Maybe we should choose a different-colored ink for the date. How about red?

The only pen in the drawer is a ball-point pen with purple ink. I would prefer to write with different-colored ink. Purple makes me want to dot my i's with a heart.

  • According to dictionaries, we can use the adjective "multicolo(u)r" instead of "multicolo(u)red". By analogy with this, can we use the adjective "different-colo(u)r" instead of "different-colo(u)red"? Thanks.
    – Loviii
    Sep 26 at 23:19
  • multicolor means "having many colors" the same as "multicolored". She was wearing a multicolor skirt. I have heard different color used by children to mean "of a different color". For example, a child might be drawing with a pack of colored chalks and say something like I need different color chalk for the puppy's nose. Sep 26 at 23:44

This is referring to some specific words within a larger body of words, with those words being written in a different-coloured ink to the rest of the text.

For example, I could ask someone to add some instructions to a process and to write that "Step 7 must be completed exactly as described" and to ask then to write those words "in a different-coloured ink" for emphasis.

So overall, the instructions are written in "different-coloured inks", with step 7 being specifically in "a different-coloured ink".

  • In the first line of my reply, some words are written in 'a different style' (italic). If SO allowed colours in answers, I could have written them in 'a different-coloured "ink"'
    – Steve Ives
    Sep 26 at 11:39

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