I have observed the use of the term ‘inkblot’ in online forums for criticizing writing which is deficient in coherent logic and/or elucidation, e.g. “your incoherent inkblots notwithstanding.”

In this usage it may insinuate the writer is clueless or unaware (e.g. of salient facts) in addition to or instead of implying weak articulation or scholarship.

The metaphor is of written text being as informative as an inkblot.

Yet I don’t find this meaning listed on any online dictionary or slang dictionary accessible via my Google searches.

Can anyone corroborate the (in?)significance or degree of prevalence of this distinct metaphorical usage and/or cite any examples online or in printed media?

Thank you. I want to check my sanity. Am I hallucinating?

  • 2
    Without more context I don't see anything unusual. Yes, the post may be insensitive, but "inkblot" is just a blob of ink on the page, and it would seem to fit the context reasonably well.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 1:27
  • @HotLicks yet I think the usage as a metaphor instead of a physical inkblot is a distinct definition? The actual writing on the online forum was not a physical blot of ink. I edited my question. Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 1:50
  • If the writing is incoherent then comparing it to an inkblot is reasonable, and is only mildly metaphorical. The linkage between the physical concept and the metaphorical one is obvious and unremarkable.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 1:55
  • @HotLicks note I upvoted your first. I pull up definitions often on Google or Merriam-Webster which often have distinct definitions for every nuance of the usage of a term. I do not currently find an apt nuanced definition for ’inkblot’ which says the metaphor of being informationally vacuous is an accepted use of the term. Metaphorically comparing to an inkblot is not the same as being a inkblot, because the writing being compared to an essentially shapeless blot is not devoid of recognizable symbols. C.f. also Conrado’s comment under Xanne’s answer for the distinction of the writer’s effort. Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


An inkblot is inherently incoherent, being simply the result of blotting up excess ink resulting from writing with a pen using liquid ink.

Inkblots have been used in psychological tests. The earliest one was the Rorschach test: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test.

  • 2
    As a criticism, its bite rests in the fact that an inkblot requires little or no intention on the part of the "writer".
    – Conrado
    Commented Sep 9, 2020 at 1:53

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