• Betsy Storm

What's Your Favorite Pen ($8 or Less)?

Updated: Jan 27


You want to be a writer, don’t know how or when? Find a quiet place, use a humble

pen.” — Paul Simon

Minor panic set in when my preferred writing instrument, the Uniball Vision Elite, turned up inkless yesterday. As everyone (especially a writer) is aware, one's ideal pen is a prized companion in this crazy world of ours. The Vision Elite not only makes my scrawl-like writing more legible and attractive, it's so affordable that I've even allowed (close) friends to “borrow one” indefinitely from time to time. At $20 for eight of these colorful gems, I can afford to emulate Lady Bountiful.

I sing a full-throated chorus of praises to this modestly priced pen. Its easy, breezy rollerball — made of sturdy tungsten carbide — epitomizes fluidity, making it an easy conduit for my thoughts. Writing is effortless, clean, and crisp. Like a perfect set of roller blades, this rollerball glides swiftly and even elegantly to the finish line.


All rollerballs utilize a tiny revolving ball to dispense water-based inks. In the case of the Vision Elite, an added bonus is a rainbow-like array of colors with the possible power to crush writer’s block— black, dark blue, violet, orange, light blue, red green, and pink. I’ve favored this model of pen almost exclusively for many years. In looking back to older notebooks, the inks remains vivid and bright. Not only are the inks are of archival quality, they bring out the kid in me.

Point sizes are .5 mm and .8 mm. (Anecdotal experience indicates the latter is best for less precise writers.) An added advantage for frequent flyers: With a bend-resistant stainless steel tip and rollerball, the Vision Elite withstands sudden pressure changes.

In a GQ.com website article titled, “The Best Pens Under $10 Will Make Your Handwriting Legible,” a fellow penmanship dropout said the pen that ups his game is the $8 Stabilo Worker+.


Coincidentally, my son Colin also fancies the Uniball Vision Elite. He says, “I’ve tried more expensive pens, but this one always wins out.” Note: Colin and I periodically accuse each other of stealing each other’s Uniballs, but since neither of us possesses evidence of the alleged crimes, we’re burying the hatchet (but not the pens).


The experts weigh in


Many an ink cartridge is depleted in debating — shall we say — the finer points of pens. It’s a crowded product category these days, all the better for those still seeking their own Holy Grail of writing instruments. Take erasable models, for example. In an article titled “The Best Pen,” on the Wirecutter website (owned by the “New York Times”), the Pilot 3ct Frixion Clicker Erasable Retractable Gel Pen Fine Point .7 mm garnered top scores. Said the reviewer: “Unlike the skipping, messy erasable pens of my childhood that didn’t fully erase, the retractable Frixion Clicker writes like a good gel pen, erases cleanly, and even has a comfortable grip.” Cost: $9 for two.


In a more general category, the site pinned a blue ribbon on the Uni-Ball Jetstream. Priced at $10 for a three-pack, the Jetstream has been a Wirecutter favorite since 2013.

A fountain pen fave

Fountain pens are basking in a resurgence, thanks in large part to Millennials. The review site bestproducts.com asserts the best example of the category type available with a lower-than-low sticker price is the JimHao x750 Medium-Nib Fountain Pen. “It was undoubtedly the thickest and weightiest pen of the group, but its surprisingly comfortable grip made it easy and enjoyable for beginner fountain-pen writers to use. One tester quoted in this story on bestproducts.com said, “The heft makes it feel expensive and substantial. Aesthetically, it’s very pleasing and the writing is easy and smooth.” Cost: $8.


The story continues: “While this is definitely not a pen for extended longhand writing, its included medium-size nib gives a nice flourish to handwritten notes, calligraphic text, and of course, your signature on important documents. If the provided medium nib doesn’t work for you, you can always swap it out for a compatible one in your preferred size.”

Decide what type of pen you prefer — fountain, rollerball, ballpoint or gel. If you’re not certain, try them all on for size. Ask yourself, what’s most comfortable in your hand? Which pen flatters your script? If you’re a leftie, that may be a consideration. Consider ergonomics, size, and ink type. Ask your friends about their preferences. Review these selection tips from the Pen Chalet website.


Choosing the penultimate pen may not guarantee your best writing, but it sure does sweeten the effort.


In closing, what is your choice for a budget-priced pen? Let me know in the "Comments" section. I will feature reader comments in an upcoming post.

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