If you're a writer, you know that a great pen can be a great and loyal partner in getting the ideas from your brain onto the page — while a bad pen can be the incompetent coworker who drives you nuts. A couple months ago, a fellow editor in one of my Facebook groups solicited opinions from other editors about which pen is best. Evidently I was feeling independently wealthy at the time, because I bought all of them. The image below shows each pen in action. The numbers are not rankings, as you will see in my (highly subjective and strongly opinionated) assessments that follow.
Pilot Acroball. This has become my go-to pen when I have to write quickly, which is most of the time. It's comfortable and pleasing to look at, for a disposable ballpoint.
Uni-Ball Vision Rollerball, fine tip. While smudge-able, these have a nice ink and are pleasant to write with — good for imitating the fountain pen look without actually using a fountain pen. I've used these when autographing books, and they're a good choice for that.
Uni-Ball Jetstream 0.5. Similar to the Pilot Acroball, but it doesn't write quite as smoothly, and I like the Acroball's chunkiness better.
Frixion Erasable 07 by Pilot. These are fantastic if you want to write in pen but you're likely to have to erase things (in the image, I erased the word "pen" so you can see what an erasure looks like). I hadn't used an erasable pen since middle school, but now I find myself using this one frequently in my copywriting work.
Pilot G-2 05. A serviceable ballpoint, but once again, not as good as the Acroball.
Sharpie S-Gel 0.7. This is my new favorite non-fountain pen. Writes very smoothly, dries quickly, comfortable to hold. If I had to buy one type of pen for the rest of my life, it would be this one.
LAMY fountain pen. I admit, I was not a fountain pen person prior to this Facebook group discussion. I was required to use them as a third-grader in Germany, where ink-stained fingers and smudged worksheets killed off any sense of romance I might have developed for fountain pens. I balked at spending $22 for one pen, but the purple color and user reviews convinced me. And I confess: I love this pen. It's extremely comfortable to hold, never gets ink on my fingers, and writes beautifully.
BIC Atlantis. I'll just cut to the chase: I hate these pens. They write fine, but their thin barrels are uncomfortable to hold and the "clicker" top feels mushy and doesn't actually click. I foisted them off on my children.
Amazon Basics fountain pen, fine point. If you want a truly bad fountain pen experience, which I bet you don't, this is the pen for you. It's not very comfortable to hold, it tends to skip, and what they consider "fine point" looks to me like the density of one of those fat kindergarten pencils. (Take a look at the first four letters up there, "Amaz-," and you can see how inconsistent the width of the writing is compared to the LAMY pen.) This would make a great passive-aggressive going-away gift for disliked coworkers.
Muji 0.5mm. I'm fond of Muji pens for their consistency and minimalistic style, but I'm easily biased toward things with Japanese writing on them, so I don't think my review here is very credible. My college-aged daughter loves them, though, and she couldn't care less where they come from.
So, with this wealth of pens at my disposal, which do I actually use daily? That's easy: the Acroball and Sharpie S-Gel for most tasks, the LAMY for slower or more creative stuff, and the Frixion for tasks like outlining blog articles and drafting interview questions.
Which ones do you like best? Did I leave out any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below. (And if you want to borrow a BIC Atlantis, consider it my gift to you.)