I have nothing against pencils. They’re great for math problems, quick sketches, and fixing a broken zipper. But for really important documents (or even a more pleasant writing experience) I would definitely choose a pen.
Why are pens better than pencils? They’re permanent and convenient, and the writing is clearer and brighter. Plus, the only advantage that pencils ever had—the ability to erase mistakes—can now be found in the newer erasable pens.
If you’re not convinced yet, here’s a list of all the reasons why pens are better than pencils.
Pencils are high-maintenance
A freshly sharpened pencil is a thing of beauty: the lines are vivid and clear. Unfortunately, they don’t stay sharp. As you write, the tip wears down into a useless stub.
That means either bringing a sharpener with you all the time (and figuring out where to throw away the shavings) or in my case, looking for the sharpener I misplaced for the thousandth time.
You’d think that sharpening a pencil would be straightforward, but sometimes it can be a game of Russian Roulette. If you over-sharpen the pencil, the fragile tip snaps as soon as it touches the page. If you don’t under-sharpen it, the blunt tip produces a wriggly line.
And there are the other problems: sometimes the lead is too soft so it catches onto the sharpener and clogs it, or the sharpener itself has a bad blade.
With pens, all you have to do is remove the cap and write. It’s that simple.
Pencils fade, but pens are forever
Anything you write with a pencil will eventually fade or rub off. That’s why artists who work with pencils have to spray their work with fixative—an extra step I’m not likely to take when I’m writing in my journal or signing a contract.
But when you use a pen, the ink may lighten or discolor over time, but it won’t completely disappear. If you write on archival, acid-free paper, the color will even remain vivid after several decades.
This is why when you sign official or legal documents, you’re required to use a pen. The record will last longer, and no one can secretly revise it. So the way I see it, a pencil is for making drafts, but the pen secures a document’s legitimacy.
Pens are more comfortable to use
While you can find ergonomic and easy-grip pencils, the majority of pens are one-size-fits-all. But pen manufacturers put a lot of thought into how a pen feels when you hold it.
That’s why, if you look at pen forums, there are discussions on the pen’s weight, balance, and shape. Some people like a heavier pen with a cigar-shaped tip, others like it light and slender. You can find the pen that suits your natural writing style and preference.
Because I can find pens that work with my natural grip, I find them less tiring to use than pencils. Once, I lost my pen case during a conference and was forced to use the pencils the hotel had provided.
After taking down notes the first day, I noticed my hands felt fatigued from gripping the pencil and pushing it down hard against the page.
That night, I found my pen case and was able to use my rollerball the next day. It was a completely different experience—the pen effortlessly glided over the page!
Pens offer more variety
To be fair, there are different types of pencils: charcoal, graphite, liquid graphite, carbon, watercolor, etc. They also come in different colors and can produce different effects through shading and layering.
But that’s nothing compared to the variety of pens available. They come in different colors and sizes, use different technologies, and are often designed for specific purposes.
- Different ink delivery systems. A ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain pen will all deliver a completely different kind of writing experience.
- Different nib shapes and nib sizes. Rollerballs and gel pens offer point sizes. Fountain pens have different nibs (this Speedball calligraphy set contains 10 nibs. and there are other sets for manga or comic artists who need different points). You can even find brush pens and roller pens with curved or wavy tips like this Aechy set.
- Different inks. You can find thousands of available shades, and special finishes like metallic or glitter. Depending on your purposes, you can get permanent ink or erasable ink, water-based or water-resistant, and novelty inks like scented or invisible ink.
- Specialty pens. There are pens for specific materials such as fabric pens) or purposes (such as technical pens used for architectural drawings).
Pens can be a status symbol
Some pens aren’t just writing instruments, they’re actually collector’s items and fashion statements. You’d never see anyone proudly wearing a pencil in their suit pocket, right? But many executives take pride in owning a limited-edition fountain pen or fondly remember the first “executive pen” they ever owned.
That’s why you’ll also find luxury pens that are priced at hundreds of dollars, and contain precious metals and stones. Designer labels like Louis Vuitton and Coach actually have their own line of pens, and Hermes and Gucci also released limited edition pen collections that are still prized by collectors.
Pens can reflect your mood and interests
Pencils are functional: you use them, wear them down, and buy another one when you need it. With pens, the look of the pen matters as much as how it writes.
Some people love to collect elegant, sophisticated pens. Even if I’m partial to fountain pens myself, I still have a whole drawer of pretty pens I hoarded from stationery stores and dollar stores.
And there are people who will buy a pen “because this is so me”. For example, Sheaffer released a Star Wars collection, and at the height of the Harry Potter craze, people bought dip pens and quill sets to recreate the Hogwarts experience.
The Winner: The Mighty Pen
Pens are better than pencils, and some of the best pens are a class on their own. Try different pens to find the perfect writing instrument for you.