Poll: Which pen suits your writing?


Some people swear that using a fountain pen improves their writing. Whether it is the weight, shape or balance of the pen or the metal content or cut of the nib, the pen counts. Maybe the difference is so small only the writer can see it but it’s still important.

Call me an equal opportunity pen user. I find a fine nib is the most suited to my writing and best for general use. Mediums and broads are helpful for long sessions since the wide nib takes the pressure off my hand. For sheer aesthetics an italic is lovely. Extra-fines are perfect for margin notes and writing the longest message on a postcard or in the space restrictions of air mail stationery.

An italic nib can make a dramatic change in penmanship but it isn’t helpful to everyone. A little practice can tame it for most of us though such a nib isn’t the best choice for fast writing. Still it does make the most of my writing so a bit of practice has been worth the time invested to get comfortable with it.

Now that’s my experience and probably different from yours. But here’s my dirty, little secret. Pencils, even mechanical pencils, make the most of my penmanship. The difference is pronounced enough that an eighth grade classmate begged our teacher to let me write in pencil. Nary one to compromise, Mr. Morris would hear none of it. Ink or fail was his rule. I’m sure he expected the ubiquitous Bic/Biro to be my tool but it never suited my writing. That’s when I discovered cheap Sheaffer fountain pens and that flipping the pen over would produce a decently narrow line. I was appeased and happy to find a new way to bedevil my teachers with my painfully small if well formed writing. Take that you enemies of individuality and creativity!

These days I stick to fountain pens for correspondence. However, my Autopoint mechanical pencil gets the most use of any writing instrument on my desk. The two things that make it my best choice are its instant start but even more useful, is its compatibility with Post-its. My desk is littered with them. That my writing is very legible is an additional factor but there is a downside. Some of my notes aren’t meant to be read by just anyone. There are things that do deserve a little privacy, you know?


  1. Margana,

    As a homeschooler who believes that students learn best when they study what interests them, I’d have to say that I love this line of yours: “I was appeased and happy to find a new way to bedevil my teachers with my painfully small if well formed writing. Take that you enemies of individuality and creativity!”

    As for pens, I need a new fountain pen. I did not like my Parker Sonnet or my short, squat, heavy, industrial-style Levenger. My Cross needs to be repaired. Do you have any suggestions or favorites?


    • Hi Cheryl,

      Glad you liked my take on the one size fits all approach to education. In retrospect I wished I had challenged my teachers more. They were so deserving of it.

      Finding the right pen is such a trial and error endeavor. For every pen I like, there are a dozen that I don’t. Pen shows are the best way to get your hands on enough of them to eliminate ones that are certain to disappoint. Few stores carry any variety and in my neighborhood none do so that hasn’t worked for me. Maybe you have something better nearby.

      My favorites are often determined by an individual pen with an exceptional nib. You could purchase the same pen but the nib might not be as fantastic. The Levenger True Writer is a good example. The dimensions are great for me but the nibs are inconsistent. Most of mine have been good but yours may not be. The Pilot Elite pocket pens from the 1970s are always in my rotation. However, they aren’t easy to find and only a few models have nibs I love. The prettiest ones have script nibs that are stingy and scratchy. With a little adjustment they can be quite nice especially for someone who likes an extra fine nib. The black models with 14K nibs are good as is the ‘Isaac Newton’. Sailor makes excellent modern pens but Pilot offers a greater variety of nibs though the build quality isn’t quite as nice in the under $200 range.

      For a budget deal, an Esterbrook is hard to beat especially with the availability of easily swapped nibs. I prefer the 9xxx series nib on the largest model though I find the narrowest nibs to be scratchy. Still there is nearly always one on my desk. Those guys just won’t stay in my pen drawer no matter how many times they are relegated to it.

      Though it may confuse the issue with too much information, check out Fountain Pen Network. There are so many pens I’ve never tested that it wouldn’t be fair to limit your choices to my experiences. In addition, you might make some new pen friends which is one of the most enjoyable aspects of any hobby.



  2. A Cross .05 mechanical pencil is actually my favorite for everyday writing but I use my Mount Blanc ballpoint for crosswords. I have a number of fountain pens and the one I prefer is a modestly priced Cross with a fine nib. MY MB Miesterstuck has a fine point that is not all that fine and very sensitive to the paper being used.


  3. I prefer a Cross .05 pencil for my everyday writing. I make many mistakes and erasing is easier.


  4. I voted for Fountain Pen with a Standard nib because I haven’t used my stubs enough yet. I believe that fountain pens help my handwriting because of the lack of pressure needed to lay down a line of ink. I am also inclined to think that the wet ink slows me down, just a bit, and makes me think about how I am forming my letters.


  5. For general note-taking, etc. that is likely to just be thrown away, I religiously use a Lyra .9 Mechanical pencil that I have not been able to fully identify beyong it’s brand name. However, if there is even the faintest chance that I will want to keep the writing (e.g. lecture notes) or someone else will read it someday (journals), then I use my favourite fountain pen of the moment, which is currently a Pilot Prera F.

    Also, any chance we can see some of your writing in pencil?


  6. Margana,

    Thanks for the hints. I guess I have some research ahead of me.



  7. Fountain pens and dip pens are the two types of pens I most often use, and they have made a huge difference in my handwriting. How one hold nib pens is very comfortable for me.

    I use a nice rollerball when I use multi-page papers at work, and mechanical pencils for some kinds of office work, but fountain pens (and dip pens at my desk at home) are what I try to use for anything else.


  8. I too have found that, the humble pencil enhances my handwriting providing some of the same attributes as some of my fountain pens.

    The humble pencil is especially adaptable to my italic style writing. My favorite pencil of the moment is the new Palomino Blackwing, that performs great.

    My favorite fountain pens, Namiki vanishing point (F), Lamy Safari (F, XF) and I recently added to my vast collection two Pelican Pelikano’s, that out perform my M-200! Go figure.

    Great blog. Keep up the good work!!!


  9. Any Pelikan M-series works for me but I prefer F and EF nibs. Other favourites include TWSBIs and my L2K/fine. While I love flex it does nothing for my writing!


  10. I’ve found that the thicker line of a med or bold nib tends to smooth out my handwriting and diminish the appearance of a mild hand tremor.

    I fairly thick pencil lead will do the same, but the increased pressure(compared to a FP) needed to use the pencil negates the benefits for me.

    My current fav is a TWSBI Med nib FP


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