Pen cap: on or off?

Chapter three of my Simplified manual says I should always remove the pen cap when writing, but doesn’t give any reasons.  Maybe it’s because a capless pen is lighter, thus easier to carry across the page.  I always write with the cap on for two reasons.  First, I don’t want to lose the cap; second, it feels wierd to write with a such a short instrument as a capless pen.  Do Pilot Precise caps really weigh that much?  Does anyone actually write with the cap off?

Shorthand: isn’t it about time?

(by johnsapp for everyone)


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  1. Yes, I always take the cap off when I write (because of those warnings)!

    Remember, those books were written during the fountain-pen era. Caps were heavy. Putting the cap on the top of the pen caused it to be "unbalanced," and pull backwards. That would require extra finger pressure to keep the pen on the paper.

    I'm not sure that with today's pens it makes much of a difference. . . .


  2. I suppose that detail used to be relevant at the time the manual was written. I still use a heavy fountain pen from time to time, and it's true, it does make a difference. The extra weight of the cap hampers the free movements of the wrist. I never use a pencil though, because it's too light to stabilize the hand.

    Pilot Precise pens are called V5 and V7 in Europe. They're great pens, although a bit too light to my taste.

  3. I always take the pen cap off. I used to used a fountain pen exclusively, and the weight is considerable. Back when speed was everything, even a small difference over made a big difference over the long haul.   Brian   BTW, my internet service has been having problems. So I'm catching up on previous messages.

  4. The Parker Pen Company, whose world headquarters was located in Janesville, Wisconsin before its move to the UK in the late 1990s, used to use letters to refer to various models. There was a very nice pen, called a VS, from the 1940s. I actually had one that had belonged to my father. When Parker went into a foreign country, "VS" meant "VD" in that country's language. After that, Parker started using numbers instead of letters–hence the famous 51.   Brian

  5. Talk about true confessions. Isn't it bad enough that we aren't only using  fountain pens? Now shorthand writers are leaving the cap on the pen–   It only gets worse.   According to my shorthand manual from the 50's one should [] never use a pencil for taking sh notes. But today, towards the end of my practice time, I decided not to fight the urge any longer to use a mechanical pencil. I enjoyed it and found it preferable to the ballpoint I was using. I sometimes copy pages out of shorthand books and trace the outlines. There is a slight resistance which helps stay steady for penmanship practice.  It's mechanical so the point will not become blunt and it won't run out of ink in the middle. I recall that my book says that pencil notes fade. I don't know if  this is true for modern pencils on modern paper. As I said it was at the end of my practice time so tomorrow I will give it a more thorough testing.   Caps and pencils. Not to mention capless pens. When will it stop?     Priscilla

  6. Gwriter: Yes, pencil definately does fade–or smear, rather–making it hard to read after a while.  You are right though, a pencil is easier to control at slow speeds since there is more friction, and for practice, who is to say you can't write with a burnt matchstick if you like?  I have done all my practice with the V5 pen just because I want to already be used to it when I'm ready to write real stuff.  Now that I think about it, pencil probably is a good way to work on those little penmanship details at slow speeds.   Brian:  I really like Parker pens.  I used the Parker Vector model exclusively for about six years, starting in highschool.  I used fine nibs and special ordered a plunger cartridge.  I even have their calligraphy nibs boxed up somewhere.  I liked the Vector because it doesn't try to look expensive and gaudy like many other cheap fountain pens.  It has a thin barrel and that nice hooded nib; utilitarian.  I once saw an all stainless steel barrel in a catalogue: ubercool!  By then though, I wanted a very fine line, and even with a fine nib, the Vector line is beefy.  I didn't like the parker ink either.  The blue black faded to near invisibility after about six months, and the black was gray at best.  Also, the thin ink bled pretty badly on the absorbent steno pad paper (which I didn't yet use for shorthand).  So, for fine line and dark black ink, I turned to the Pilot Precise V5.  I also like that the ink is waterproof.  Of course a fountain pen won't be waterproof, but if I could get a Parker to make a very fine line, I would be tempted to give it another try. Can the more advanced Parker models make a finer line than the Vector?  It just occured to me that when I was writing with Vectors, it was with my left hand and with way too much pen pressure.  Now, I use my right hand with light pressure, so maybe that would reduce the thickness a bit.   See also the discussion Pen and Pad.   ____________________ Shorthand: isn't it about time?

  7. Caps?  What are those?  I use click pens Actually when I was younger and click pens weren't popular, I would throw away caps because I hated them… now I can't remember why, I guess just the inconvience and time of pulling the cap off and putting it on the end and then pulling it off the end and putting it back on the top… that's one reason I don't use them now, unless that's all I can find (like cheap purple ones for fun). Debbi

  8. I'm with Debbie on this one.  Click's only for me. I always lose the tops, or put the pen away without it, and have ink all over my fingers from the other pens in the jar.   It is possible to get good, smooth pens of the click variety. Zebra makes more than one, and my personal favourite is the Zebra Sarasa, which comes in a variety of lovely colours to enhance your writing pleasure.  Watersoluble, but not very.

  9. My favorite click is the Pilot G-1 the 07 size.  It's a gel pen so it does bleed through the steno pad but for work it's fine as my bosses pet peeve is his last assistant flipping the steno pages and note book all over the place to find a note she wrote… so I only write on one side anyway.  For ink it's papermate comfrotmate pen, that's all we have here at work for clicks… Debbi

  10. Yes, pencil writing still fades over time. But I agree: I used a Ticonderoga mechanical pencil: It looks just like a pencil–yellow and erase–but it's plastic and has graphite coming out steadily as you right.   Brian

  11. Just remember that when Gregg was originally "invented," it was written with a DIP pen. You'd write for a whle and then have to put your pen back in the inkwell for more ink.

    WE have it easy with ballpoints, rollerballs, and even fountain pens. Just think of how much wasted time/movement there is in having to recharge the pen in an inkwell!


  12. Marc   Don't you think it's likely that Gregg writers were the first and best customers of the fountain pen companies, as found at the following website   "From the beginning of the 19th century, the number of fountain pen designs patented and produced began to multiply. Three major advances, however, paved the way for the fountain pen's widespread acceptance: the invention of hard rubber (a naturally-derived plastic, resistant to chemicals, easily machined, and relatively cheap); the availability of iridium-tipped gold nibs; and improved inks, not laden with clogging sediment. All three factors fell into place around the middle of the century; it was in the later 1870s and 1880s, however, that fountain pen production took off in earnest."   It does seem likely, tho, that when Gregg was developing his shorthand, he would have used a dip pen, but by the time he got to Chicago, he would have found a fountain pen.   Regency period is my joy, (1810-ish to 1830-ish) and I know they were around then as a novelty item.   Billy

  13. Pitman, interestingly, was developed for use with a pencil. It could also be used with a dip pen or quill pain.   When Gregg published Lightline phonography, fountain pens were just starting to be used. So fountain pens would have been available to Gregg writers in the late 1880s and later.   Brian

  14. Okay, I finally broke down and paid way to much for a fountain pen.  After using this Parker Sonnet, I must say that I am not very impressed.  I am sensing that nibs made back in the day were more spry and responsive.  Like so many other things, the modern nib seems to be foolproofed by being made overly sturdy–eventhough it's labelled Fine.  Also, the inkflow isn't great.  Maybe that's because my pen was designed to take the water thin Quink ink, which I dislike for it's greyness.   One thing I do like is the weight.  When switching back to a V5 after using the Sonnet, the V5 feels horribly featherweight and very hard to stablize while writing.  There's something about the G forces acting on the barrel of a weighty pen that make it easier to sweep over the page.  Also, to answer my own original question, writing with the cap on is not so much a problem because of the weight (Sonnet is comparitively light anyway), but because it throws off the balance.  It's been a couple months, and I'm not sure if I'll keep using the Sonnet or the V5…or maybe a vintage fountain pen.  For now, I've been switching back and forth.    

  15. My recommendation:  any Gregg nibbed vintage fountain pen with Private Reserve brand ink.  This ink is heavier than the regular ones and has a very smooth flow.  You can mix and match colors to create your own.   Stay away from Quink, Pelikan, and Scrip.  These inks are way too watery, and splash all over!   What do I use?  Vintage Sheaffer Gregg Pen with 33 Gold nib with Private Reserve Tanzanite ink.   Also, when acquiring a vintage pen, make sure that it says Gregg, or manifold, or accountant's point.  The nibs in European vintage pens that read "Shorthand" are for writing Pitman: in these, the nib is flexible so that you can create the shadowing.  Gregg nibs are firm, on the other hand.

  16. I'm sure that the capless recommendations had to do with the weight. Extra weight slows the writer an fatigues him/her earlier. I have always preferred a fountain for shorthand (and longhand, too, for that matter).   Pencil notes become fuzzy over time because they graphite rubs off as sheets rub against either. This is an issue also with longhand notes. Still, in recent years, I've used a mechanical pencil with excellent results. There is a really nice mechanical pencil made by Ticonderoga that looks just like a real (wooden) pencil. It's called the SenseMatic:   Brian

  17. John Sapp:

    With all due respect, I believe fountain pens with a "fine, flexible nib" were usually recommended for stenography (nee phonography). The pen you bought was probably not intended for that purpose, though, of course, it can be used.

    Pens with "fine, flexible nib"s are very hard to find; for the most part, they're no longer manufactured. You'd need to buy an original. One company in Japan, though, called Namiki, still manufactures pens with flexible nibs. They can be found at

    By the way, John, both your longhand and your Gregg is beautiful to look at. 🙂

  18. Hmmm… my understanding was that Gregg uses a firm nib, while Pitman uses a flexible nib.  A flexible nib allows the line to change from light to heavy, or unshaded to shaded, by changes in pen pressure.  I think the fountain pen industry calls a line with varying width stenographic; maybe they should say calligraphic instead.  Eventhough a line with varying thickness doesn't neccessarily have anything to do with stenography, maybe since Pitman was the established system back then, the word stenographic picked up the meaning variable thickness when referring to a line.  The fountain pen nibs that were manufactured specifically for Gregg were firm, to keep the line unshaded, right?  So, they were not considered stenographic eventhough they were used for stenography.  I could be mistaken…just what I think I remember.   That being said, I think I would prefer a flexible nib, or at least a MORE flexible one than my Sonnet.  As far as fineness, I prefer as fine a line as possible.  I wanted the Sonnet Extra Fine nib, but the store only had Fine in stock, and being impatient I went with it.  Anyway, I know that Gregg doesn't need line shading, but if I had a flexible nib, I don't think it would hurt my Gregg.  Light pen pressure would keep my lines light, and even if i did get some shading, would it be a crisis?  As a matter of fact, I think a little shading in Gregg would look nice.  Perfectly written Gregg is required to have some line variation actually…the getaway stroke is when the line tapers off at the end of an outline.  Sorry for the random post…   ________________________________ Go, Speedwriter, go!

  19. John:

    To come to think of it, you could be right about the nibs; perhaps flexible nibs were meant for Pitman writers. One thing to note, however, is that Simplified, printed in 1949, came at the very end of the fountain pen era. Good Ballpoint pens (as opposed to the prototypes) were introduced in 1950, and quickly overcame the market. Fountain pens are a pain to care for.

    I don't know if the Gregg people knew about the fountain pens in 1949, but they certainly would have known about them in the editions of Simplified that succeeded the 1st edition; perhaps the cap on/cap off instructions were aimed at ballpoint pen users…

    John, your longhand (and your Gregg) is a work of art– a beauty to behold. Where did you learn your penmanship skills?

  20. Well, thank you for the complement!  When I changed to writing with my right hand, I realized my left handed writing wouldn't transfer over–all the movements were different.  So, I set out learning cursive all over again using the same manual Andrew linked to:   So, my left hand learned cursive in 3rd grade, and is not very good at it.  My right hand has been learning just over the past two years, and does a much better job.  Of course, I don't normally write as carefully as above.  You can see my chicken scratch in the picture of my steno book in the "Center Ruled Pads" discussion.  Also, good point about the ballpoints.   ___________________________________________ Go, Speedwriter, go!

  21. By coincidence, I've just been working on this passage from Wallace Bowman's Shorthand Dictation Studies (Anniversary, Chapter 1):   —   If the stenographer decides to use a pen, she should select one with a medium fine point that permits light, easy outlines; one that has a regular flow of ink; and that is not too heavy. It is also suggested that the cap of the pen be laid aside* during the writing because it adds extra weight to the pen.   —   * At this point, I took the cap (of my Parker Sonnet, John) off. And it does make a difference. I got to the end of the sentence in record time 🙂   Kevin

  22. John thanks for the link.  (I do prefer your P to theirs).  My cursive has become bad since I took Speedwriting Shorthand which uses cursive letters… I guess mine's not bad, just very basic without the flare.  This type of handwriting reminds me of my grandmas whose I always liked but could never do. Debbi

  23. Dear John,   I like it when I use my pen I take such pride To see it glide From line to line With writing fine But with its cap The lines are [deleted by moderator]   I'm still working on my sonnet. More soon. 🙂 Kevin

  24. It's brown and black – a sort of marbled effect.   It does feel a bit like a fake, though, doesn't it? Like it's not a real fountain pen. I remember my dad had a vintage fountain pen years ago (must have been pre-WW2) that I used to sneakily use. It was heavy, smooth and elegant. I don't think they make them like that any more…

  25. Yeah, since fountain pens have been pushed into the luxury corner of the market by ballpoints, the manufacturers are putting all their effort into making them more like pieces of jewlrey than practical tools.  I wish I had one from back in the day that would have been as ordinary to its user as a ballpoint pen is to me today.  Well, maybe not too ordinary!   __________________________________________ Go, Speedwriter, go!

  26. George said: Pens with "fine, flexible nib"s are very hard to find; for the most part, they're no longer manufactured. You'd need to buy an original. One company in Japan, though, called Namiki, still manufactures pens with flexible nibs. They can be found at
    —-JSW replies: Namiki makes a pen called the Falcon, which has a wonderful fine, flexible 14k gold nib. Here's a link to it for those who would like a gander:    This company also sells the very popular Noodler's brand ink.   Cheers, JSW Gregg Speedwriter Wannabe

  27. Originally, folks used nibs which were flexible, and those who were taught to write learned to control line thickness as a matter of course. Pitman shorthand merely took advantage of a then-common feature of pens and penmanship.   As you know, the times do change, though. LOL.   Kindest, JSW Gregg Speedwriter Wannabe

  28. Nope, just the 41. I think they also later released the "51 Demi", which was basically the 41 with a different name. So eventhough it was a short-lived model, they concept of the scaled down model was obviously a success (41 was smaller than 51).

  29. John Sapp:

    I can empathize.

    About your Parker 41–did you know it was only a semi-flexible pen? Just think what a flexible pen would do; that's why you see Pitman written so beautifully in those old books.

    You can find Parker 41s on the Internet but they aren't cheap. would almost certainly have one.

  30. Back to the cap on or off topic:   I told the salesperson at writing instrument shop that I liked the red pen, but that the cap kept falling off.   She said that in Europe, people don't write with the caps on.   I told her that the barrel of the pen was too short to write with the cap off.  

  31. Ha, ha. Ah, salesmen. I would have said "yea, in Europe they also negotiate on price."

    You're right, George, it is really not flexible at all with the way the nib is covered right up to the tip. This makes it great for Gregg writing, but you might remember that I was dreaming of having a flexible nib pen. Really though, the 41 wrote so nicely that I might just say I am converted to firm nibs.

    Praise the Lord, I saw the light line.

  32. A "flexible" nib is what is used for Copperplate and Spencerian script. To write those you have to have a flexible nib so the down strokes can be heavier and the upstrokes very light.

    I have never seen a fountain pen with a suitable flexible nib which is why I use a steel-tipped dip pen. I was under the impression that a fountain pen could not be made with a flexible nib because the flexing disrupts the flow of ink.


  33. ShorthandMarc:

    As I understand it, flexible nib fountain pens were de rigeur for all stenography up until about the 1930s; the advent of Gregg Shorthand was directly responsible for its demise. After that point, there wasn't a consumer need for the pen except among calligraphers. So the pens after WW2 that were advertised as flexible really weren't. They were closer to semi-flexible in function.

    This tradition has continued until today. The "flexible nibs" that can be bought from Nokimi (sp?) really aren't.

    Old-style flexible nibs from the teens and 20s are still available on the Internet but are expensive…

  34. GeorgeAmberson,   The demise of flexible nibs has nothing to do with Gregg shorthand. All pens had flexible gold nibs until the 30's but those nibs were thinner and thus easily breakable. The thines would easily bend and the vent or breather hole, which was larger than the present ones, was a weak point in the nib because of the pressure involved. Later on, pen makers changed their alloy and the whole conception of their nibs for sturdier and more reliable pens.   I have a Mabbie Tod (Swan) and several Waterman pens with real flexible nibs from the early twenties. Those are too fragile to use them as daily writers. Even the proper shorthand nibbed Conway Stewart or Pelikan pens of the fifties, which were used for Pitman and Gabelsberger shorthand, can be considered as semi-flexible, if you compare them to the previous ones.   The cheapest pens are perfectly suitable for Gregg or Duploy챕 shorthand. Actually, you don't need any flex at all and the lighter your strokes are, the swifter you write.  

  35. Hey, George!   You're right.  The kinds of "flexible" nibs you're  referring to aren't the same ones used for Copperplate or Spenserian.  The "flexible" shorthand nibs are not nearly as flexible as the ones I mean.   Marc  

  36. " I'm new to shorthand, but from the discussions I have concluded that pens (fountain or dip) with exceedingly flexible nibs are probably no longer the best choices for shorthand… the more recent shorthand styles do not require a difference in line thickness, so any regular fountain with more rigid nib should do."

    This is only true in the US and other Gregg-writing countries. For the Commonwealth, Pitman is the preferred shorthand of choice. In this respect, a flexible nib is not only desirable, but necessary if you wish to show the proper thickness of lines (a ball-point pen will do in a pinch, but it's rather cumbersome for use). A firm nib fountain pen doesn't work for Pitman; trust me, I've tried it.

    Students who don't have a flexible nib fountain pen are usually urged to use a pencil when writing Pitman, or other shorthand systems that depend upon variances of thickness…

  37. Wow, Courtney, thanks for the crash course. You know, maybe it's for the best that I lost the Parker 41. I had started to take a liking to the desk base style pen. I read one explaination that said the reason for their decline was that people wanted to take their pen with them. Not me–I'd rather have it at easy access, one-hand operation, right there while I'm working. I didn't need to bring it home anyway. Any advice about desk bases?

  38. Just to add a little thing (John, please forgive the post if not related), parts and knowledgeable service people for fountain pens are few and far in between. That has contributed to the decline in production of pens. People don't write with pens as often as they did in the past.

    (If anyone is in need for a service tech for pens, I can recommend a very good one that has taken care of my pens for some time. He's based in Oregon.)

  39. We have generally said pencil isn't suitable for Gregg because it gets dull and fades, so I was interested to find this passage in a book my coworker brought in to show me.   Bowman & Olivero; Shorthand Dictaition Studies; South-Western Publishing Co.: 1961.   "PEN OR PENCIL?  To make the best use of your shrothand skill, you will want to have the proper tools.  Your toold for taking dictation are a pencil or pen and a notebook. Whether you use a pencil or a pen is a personal choice.  There are, however, certain advantages to each.    "The pencil is generally most readily available in an office and is, therefor, most frequently used.  a pencil with a medium hard lead should be selected.  The stenographer who likes to take her dictation with a pencil always carries several with her when she reports for dictation.  If her pencil points are sharp, she can write her notes with considerable ease and speed.   "Some shorthand writers prefer a fountain pen.  With a pen you are not concerned about wearing down the point, but you do have to be sure that the pen is full of ink.  The careful stenographer will fill a pen each morning so that she is ready to take dictation when called by her employer.  A medium fine point is good for writing outlines that will be clear and distinct.  Some writers believe that notes written in ink are easier to read than notes written in pencil.  This is particularly true if the notes are read a week or more after they were written.  Since notes are usually transcribed soon after they are written, the difference in outlines written with a pencil an those written with a pen is not especially important.   "A ball-point pen can be used for shorthand notes if it has a medium fine point and writes with a minimum of pressure.

  40. This seems to be the de facto "general pen discussion" thread, so I'll take a turn and recommend an inexpensive rollerball, the "Steadtler Cool Roller" (same nib, I think, as their "Liquid Point 5").

    It's not quite your fountain pen, but it is smoother and more consistent than any other ball point I've tried. And its thin nib (0.25) and thick ink seem to have a better (and less soluble!) effect than my Pelikan with Quink on the cheaper, easy-to-bleed papers one often has to use. (I'll buy Private Reserve next time, Chuck.)

    And while I'm talking budget products, I'll also mention the syringe trick for any who may not yet know it: many modern fountain pens use only model-specific disposable ink bladders. Buy a bottle of nice ink and a syringe instead of a pack of these cartridges; when the ("disposable") bladder is empty, pop it off and fill it back up with the syringe. Class- and work-mates will look at you funny, but you're an independant soul anyway.


  41. Out of the closet I'm a leaping! For my thousands of exercises I have used and so prefer a pencil. Knock on wood (no pun intended) I have never had a point break yet! I can quickly erase mistakes and none of my previous work has faded. I respect the professional look of a fountain pen. But truthfully, because I think I hold my pencil correctly, no smears have occured either. To each her/his own! DOC

  42. I use both fountain pen and pencil in my writing. Once, I accidentally laundered some notes of mine that were written in both pen and pencil. I was really surprised when I unfurled the hapless notes and saw that those in pen were completely gone, but the pencil notes were hardly changed! Goes to show that the supposed "permancy" of notes in pen may not be what it seems, especially if the popular water-based inks are used.


  43. What type of pencils do you use?  I hardly use pencils anymore just because I haven't found one that's easy enough to right with, but if you're writing shorthand with them they can't be too hard. Debbi

  44. What happens as the point of the pencil gets dull? Do you have to write larger to distinguish the A's from the E's, etc? I think that was one of the main problems with pencil notes in the last century.

    The second problem was reading pencil notes by "artificial" light. They're not as easily seen as dark ink. (Don't shoot the messenger on this one, OK?)

    And, pencil notes were supposed to be smeary. Maybe pencils of 1906 were quite different than the pencils of 2006.


  45. ShorthandMarc:

    Apropos the pen vs. pencil controversy, I looked in my ancient "phonography" manuals from the late 1880s-90s. It appears that there was just as much disagreement between the shorthand "greats" as there is today. The Pitman Brothers preferred pens while Cross, et. al. insisted that the pencil was best. Later on, in the 1950s, (after ballpoints) Pitman writers were urged to use pencils while Gregg writers were urged to use pens.

    I guess some things never change, do they?

  46. Now this is interesting! I've been using a pecil from the start because I just found it easier and can write "smoother" than with a pen. Also, the pen is too messy for my liking. I'm just odd enough that the mess detracts from learning!!!

  47. A few months ago, I was trying to decide whether to learn Pitman or Gregg, and writing implement ended up being the deciding factor.

    Here in Canada, Pitman materials are more easily available, and the people I know who studied shorthand in school all learned Pitman, so that was my first choice. I got a couple of chapters into a Pitman book, but what turned me off it was the requirement for thick-versus-thin lines, which seems to limit your choices in writing implement to either a pencil or a fountain pen. I love fountain pens, but I wouldn't want to carry one around all the time. I found that a ballpoint or roller ball pen could produce lines of varying thickness if it had a thick point, but not if it had a fine point.

    Gregg is so much better in this regard. You can write with almost anything, from ballpoint to crayon.

    Where I sometimes find ballpoints a problem is if you are starting writing with a dot or a very small character. Many ballpoints take a millimetre or so before they will start putting down ink. Not a problem with most writing, but if your first word is "a/an" it may not show. My "regular" pen is a Fisher Space Pen ballpoint, but the rather thick ink it uses often takes a moment to start writing.

    I've found that a Pilot G2 gel pen (a standard stationary store thing) is quite a good writing instrument for shorthand. Ink goes down very black, and it starts writing immediately. I've been using this for all my shorthand lessons. (Currently plodding my way through Louis A. Leslie's Functional Method.) Because it's a gel pen, with a fairly wide tip, I don't expect the ink to last long.

    Another good, relatively cheap pen I've come across for shorthand is the Pilot G-Tec ("the world's finest rollerball"). This writes a very fine (0.2 mm) line, and is good if you prefer to write your shorthand fairly small. Because it's such a fine point, the ink lasts for ages.

    As for whether to write with the cap on or off, the Pilot G2 doesn't have one (it's retractable), and the G-Tec's cap is so light that it wouldn't be an issue. I don't think there are many pens these days, other than the larger fountain pens, where having the pen cap on would make much difference.

  48. >I've found that a Pilot G2 gel pen (a standard stationary store thing) is quite a good writing instrument for shorthand.   I love the Pilot G2 gel pens. I don't use black ink (I worked for 22 years in a job that mandated "black ink only" and when I left I developed a strong psychological aversion . . . irrational, but true) but the standard blue ink is rich and dark.  All the G2 colors are pleasant and the ink is great to write with.  There's a tendency to "blob" once in a while, and the ink takes just a bit longer to dry than some others so you have to be careful about smearing.  Minor problems and well worth putting up with, in my mind.  The pens last a surprisingly long time, and refills are generally available.   Another good pen is the Sarasa by Zebra.  It writes almost like the G2 and comes in great colors.   I'm a fountain pen fan, but just don't use them any more.  They just don't match my current writing needs.  Fountain pen ink is scarce and expensive, and I don't have time for maintenance.    Alex

  49. I use a Pilot V5 extra-fine. I find that the finer the point, the more aware of my penmanship I am (and the more outlines I cross out!) It's great from my experience and the ink lasts a good six to eight weeks with regular writing. But I'll have to give the G2 a shot too 😉

    I used to use a mechanical pencil to write, but the perfectionist in me was too tempted to rewrite every slightly-off outline instead of getting into the rhythm of writing.

    In response to someone's comment long ago about Gregg being written with any implement, I've done a fair bit in sidewalk chalk as well 🙂 Even mud works if you're out in the garden.

  50. <<Once, I accidentally laundered some notes of mine that were written in both pen and pencil. I was really surprised when I unfurled the hapless notes and saw that those in pen were completely gone, but the pencil notes were hardly changed!>> what about the Uni-bal pens?  These are suppose to be theft proof.  Last A few years ago on the news they showed how crooks wash checks and these pens were supposedly nonwashable (at that time anyway, not sure if crooks could do that now).  How about scrapbooking pens like the acid free ones?  I don't know if those would work, but they might.  Some write great.   John, love your notes!  And then pen.  Thanks for sharing. Debbi

  51. JohnSapp:

    My goodness, those are some huge outlines! Yes siree! Is that normal for Gregg, or is your handwriting naturally larger than most?

    By the way, I reiterate–your longhand is beautiful!! Would you be kind enough to let us know again where you learned the penmanship? (I lost the link). Thank you.

  52. I studied the Spencerian lessons, though I wouldn't say I write Spencerian.  I just used it as a base to train my right hand how to write.  Palmer is the more modern version; more simplified, and in my opinion, less elegant.  Copperplate (same as engrosser's script) is a type of calligraphy, or ornamental penmanship, not suitable for regular handwriting.   Spencerian was the standard American penmanship taught in schools when Gregg was released.  I think this is the writing style they mean when they say Gregg mimics the movements of the handwriting you already know.

  53. John,      Someone may have mentioned this already, but you can get a virtually *exact* duplicate of the Parker 51 from Norman at'329'_series.htm. In three colors, yet.   The Hero 329 is exactly like my Parker, except for the cool Star Trek logo on the hood over the nib. It writes like a dream- I use it for Perrault-Duploye currently.  And they're only about $15.00….   Cheers,   Tom

  54. John:

    Modern-day Pitman writers (there are many of them overseas) use a pencil most of the time. A few use ballpoint pens (biros); it's a fallacy that Pitman can't be written with ballpoints–it's less efficient, however.

    The few Pitman writers who DO use fountain pens get vintage pens. Do a search for "fine, flexible nib" on Google and you'll find oodles of them. is a good source.

  55. Does anyone use an edged or "italic" pen for their Gregg?

    My daughter purchased an edged dip pen recently and each of us had a turn with it. I began writing Gregg wondering about the feel of a dip nib, but was unexpectedly charmed by the shapes that came out on the page. I was reminded of Tolkien's Elvish. The outlines were as legible as mine ever are, and I imagine a self-feeding pen with a subtle edge would serve well for regular use.

    The dip nib, incidentally, was surprisingly easy, contra some suggestions in early posts. This one was smooth, and had a small brass finger bent into the top of it which, when dipped, held a drop of ink sufficient to fill half a letter size page of outlines. Add to that the advantage of a non-soluble ink, and it's a contender for your journaling!

    Also, Chuck, thanks for the tip on Private Reserve. I've purchased "Velvet Black" for my Lamy Safari and am pleased to say it behaves just as you said.

  56. There's no reason why you can't use an italic pen for Gregg, but it's definitely going to change what you produce.  The whole point of "light line" phonography was to avoid the thick/thin distinctions of pressure-shaded writing.  While italic writing doesn't use pressure, it is characterized by thicks and thins that are foreign to Gregg.  Won't make it illegible, but will make it definitely non-standard.   I think some of the line movements of Gregg are counter-intuitive to the natural motions of the edged pen, too.  Upward strokes that push against the broad edge are going to be slowed or snagged, unless you're using a relatively narrow nib.    My normal writing isn't broad-pen italic, but I learned italic writing in the British style (Johnston/Fairbank/Gourdie, etc.)  Anyone remember the little "Teach Yourself Handwriting" book by John le F. Dumpleton?  Fairbank's "A Handwriting Manual" is possibly the standard reference, although there are better.  In the U.S. the materials by Getty and Dubay from Oregon seem to still be widely available.  I don't have a sense at all, though, of whether "italic handwriting" per se is still taught anywhere.  The british "Society for Italic Handwriting" has disappeared, as has the U.S. branch.  Handwriting in general isn't much talked about these days.    Alex

  57. In the texts where they recommend that you take the cap off the pen it assumes that you're using a fountain pen of the era.  Taking the cap off the fountain pen balanced the weight and made it easier to move across the page.  It made the pen lighter so you wouldn't have so much drag.    It does feel wierd to write without the cap on at first, but once you get used to it you may prefer it.    These days I prefer to use a medium point ballpoint pen.  I have not been able to find a fountain pen that moves smoothly enough across the page for my liking.    Pencils were not recommended because of the fact that they wouldn't stay sharp and the notes can become fuzzy.  Though, Pitman writers, since they need to shade their strokes, will use a pencil.  You can find Pitman nibs every now and again.  They tend to be much more flexible than the Gregg point to allow for the shading.   That's my 2 cents.   Peter

  58. Very interesting thread! I'm one of those who likes a bit of resistance in the nib, for the stability. And extra-fine nibs, too, for the thin line.

    I, occasionally practice with a pencil, but miss the resistance on the paper. I do remember mechanical pencils in the 50's having a different sort of lead, that gave one a bit of traction on the paper.

    I used to always write with the cap on the pen. I got away from using fountain pens. Now that I'm writing with them again, I find I prefer to have the cap off. The balance is nicer, and there is, indeed, less pressure on my hand.

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