Okay, so this may sound like a rather silly question, but does anybody have a favourite pen for shorthand?

For the record my current favourite is the BIC reaction retractable gel pen.

(by shorthandworld1 for everyone)

20 comments Add yours
  1. Far from a silly question. In fact for me it had a huge effect on my enjoyment of gregg when I switched to a Pilot Needle Point. You know those Pilot pens that use liquid ink and have this thin needle-like tip. Their main advantage is sort of like a fountain pen, you don't need any pressure to produce a clear uninterrupted line. As soon as the carbide ball tip even brushes against the paper, the ink transfers. In shorthand I find the smoother the pen the better. Ballpoints (pigment ink) produce a good line but you need a lot of pressure. Rollerballs (gel ink) are easier but still not as good.   In fact one person on this forum told me that first priority in any writing is to find a person which is as smooth as possible.

  2. Was that a freudian slip. Well I didn't mean 'a person that is as smooth as possible' rather a pen.   Never mind. After using these Needle Points to practice shorthand over the last two weeks, I have just tried using my other pens. The fountain pen works as expected producing a good line. But the ballpoint provides a barely visible line, also the Rollerball cuts in and out. This is all because I have reduced the pressure I put on the paper since switching to Needle Point which shows off the weaknesses of the other pen types as I write with them. This hardly scientific test provides good evidence of the benefit of a very smooth pen.   I haven't tried your BIC Gel Point but I imagine you might want to try the Pilots– the V5, V7 serious are the latest generation.   Yours Truly   Michael.

  3. I have some cheap roller ball type, and find the ink flows too fast on all papers. I used to love Pilot V5 10 years ago when I worked, but I tried my last one and it also flowed too fast in my steno pad. Maybe I hesitate more when writing shorthand (yep, I know, I shouldn't), or maybe the steno pad sucks paper faster. Either way, I still use them sometimes. I like to try out both ends of the spectrum; it helps me find the middle.

  4. I'm a fan of (cheap) ballpoint pens.  I think this is due to my tendency to misplace my pens, plus I learned Gregg using ballpoint pens back in the Jurassic Age.  I also like (cheap) Bic mechanical pencils, which I also constantly misplace somewhere in my little office.  Luckily I keep an extra box or two of these writing instruments in my desk at all times.   Someone once told me that for Pitman, you MUST use a pencil because there are "heavy" and "light" strokes.  That sounds too complicated.  My Mom and Grandma were Pitman writers, though, and when I lived on Long Island in the early 80's, the local Adult Ed Dept. offered "Pitman Refresher" courses.    –Alison

  5. When Pitman was created, there were no ballpoints. People were used to fountain pens, and the typical formal script required changing the line width, so it was a skill they already had.

    (The morning radio show "On Today's Date" last week had "first ballpoint pen, sold for $14." I forget the year.)

    Ages ago, one of the women I babysat for had some Pitman books (which may have added to my interest in shorthand). When I asked her what pen she preferred; she replied, "Pencil". Oops, I guess all the books that say you must use pen for legibility and permanence forgot to ask her advice.

    For most of the ballpoints I tried, it doesn't take much difference in pressure to distinguish between light and heavy. I started using lightest and heaviest; the book recommended lightest and "just enough more". It was a good exercise; I hadn't realized that I normally pressed quite hard.

    I also bought some calligraphy pens, the ones you have to dip. 6 nibs, a holder (careful to get one that matches the nibs) and a jar of ink was under $10. The nibs were maybe $1 each. Again, a good experience.

    I've seen Pitman samples online where I could barely tell the difference, but that might also be the scan. You can get Pitman pens on Ebay, which had very flexible nibs. (You can also get Gregg pens on Ebay, I think they were promotional.)

    I found the samples in the Pitman text to be easier to read than the Gregg samples. Yes, there are a few more things to look for (light/heavy and position), but the shapes are more consistent. A mid-length line is 2mm long, regardless of what shapes are around it or its angle, and an upstroke is always at the same angle. (At least in the text.)
    is a series of articles by Gregg himself, many of which talk about Pitman's problems, most of which stem from the thick lines, which, with the flexible nibs used back then, must be written downward (otherwise the metal points catch the paper), therefore leading to outlines which go down several lines, extra forms for some sounds to get the outline moving upwards again, and you have to twist the pen a bit to draw a heavy sideways line … Hey, it's his rival. I'm sure Pitman fans would have an equal list.


  6. Michael, thank you.

    You have taken me to the door of pen Nirvana. I followed your lead and bought a Pilot Precise V5 0.5, and, wow, it's good.

    Although I've only used it for Teeline so far, I reckon it has added an additional five words or so a minute to my speed. But that's not the – pardon the pun – point I want to make. As a reporter, much of my day is spent writing down notes in shorthand and I often get a slight ache between my thumb and forefinger.

    Not today. You're spot on about the effortless glide of the liquid ink – and you're again right about its superiority over gel ink pens – yes, dare I say it, even over my old favourite BIC (though the BIC feels more natural in the hand).

    Again, thanks for your advice. I'm converted.

  7. I've not liked the rollerball type pens and gel ink didn't seem to make any difference for me. Of course, I haven't tried a rollerball pen since the 1980s. . . .

    I prefer to use the Bic "stick" pens. They are easy to find in stores, write smoothly, and don't drag on the paper. Although I used a fountain pen for years, I much prefer a ballpoint.


  8. My favorite pen at this time is the Zebra F-301. The ink flows freely, while the ball point glides along making a fine line with very little pressure. It comes as a standard click pen, or as a compact, or retractable version. The lightest weight would probably be the compact version, which is actually about half the length of a regular pen until the lightweight cap is added to give it the length of a regular pen.   With a wider line the little circles aren't clear. Some fine point (and medium point) pens I've tried, require too much pressure to get an uninterrupted line.   After reading the rave review of the Pilot V7, turned out I had a brand new one. I tried it out.  It has a wider line and good visibility. I think it would require writing a little bigger than with my pens.  Or else it's for the more experienced writer who can practice gliding across the page with a feather-light touch.   I wonder if Parker makes a pen that writes as smoothly as the Zebra.   E48

  9. My favorite pen for a good four years now has been the V5 pilot extra-fine series. They require *very* little pressure (which is good since I write with a light touch), and show every excruciating detail of what you write, automatically forcing improved penmanship 🙂 They're kind of pricy ($4?), but they last me a good three weeks each with nearly daily extensive practice. They also write right away, unlike some which require an INFURIATING pre-scribble before ink starts coming out.

  10. This is probably totally unoriginal, but I found myself going back to the fountain pen, having fallen in love with the Platinum Carbon Ink.  It's (I think) thicker than normal black ink so it glides nicely, plus once it dries it's waterproof, and it's very very black.  The downside though is that with a fountain pen you can't see the ink running out so you don't realize until it goes phutt in midstroke…  So I'm on a search for a ballpoint I like as a backup; the suggestions given here will be a great help!

  11. Hello Martha707.  Have you checked out  I have purchased several fountain pens from him and you can check the ink in some of them to make sure you won't run out.  I'm like you – I enjoy using the fountain pen but I also like the Pilot V5 and V7 extra fine points if I forget to bring my fountain pens with me.   Joanne

  12. The Pilot P500 needle point gel pen is my favorite. The flexibility of the tip makes writing very smooth and easy. The ink comes in black or colors including a very sharp purple. The cap is secure and I've never had a problem with leaking. But its best feature is that the whole pen is one huge reservoir. I can't think of any pen that lasts longer.

    But if I drop it, the tip often bends which results in an awkward feel to subsequent writing (if the tip is not straitened, a painstaking process).

    For paper, I'm a fan of "Rite in the Rain." Their products are waterproof. And they offer a Gregg ruled reporter's note book (similar in width to a memo pad but long enough to be useful).

    And I always carry a Fisher "Spacepen." It writes no better than the Bic pens sold in bags of a hundred. But they're waterproof (I've written under water) and freeze proof to -40째F (haven't tested this yet, but I've had pens freezing before in cold weather). So, it's good to have around when my P500 wont work.

    Rite in the Rain offers their own branded waterproof pens but they're exactly the same as the Fishers.

    Pencils are a good substitute for space pens. They're cheaper and work just as well in the cold…still I like ink.

  13. Yeah I also use the p700 which is the 0.7mm equivalent of the p500. I find that they have a much thinner line than the V5s and V7s respectively. I don't know why this is. Maybe its the formulation of the ink. With the Vsyou can see the ink move inside the barrel if you turn it upside down. But with the px00 it doesn't move but slowly dissapears up the length of the barrel as you use up the pen. Then the pen dies suddenly and instantly with no issues until the last word.

  14. Thanks for the link, Joanna!  You meant the Arista Demonstrator I assume; I have already placed an order! I also noted that you said fountain pen_s_.  I have accumulated quite a number over the years, but I seem to use the one favourite all the time; maybe I should consider keeping 2 or 3 in rotation.   I'm also going to try the Pilot Vs and Ps that seem popular here.  (Though the Ps may have the same issues as the fountain pen??) Waterproof pens sound intriguing too!  Though I can't imagine a situation where I'd write under water; I haven't gone diving for 15 years.  Ah, maybe in the rain?   My present backup is a 0.7 mechanical pencil with a very soft lead, B or 2B.  The usual 0.5 lead breaks too easily, and a 0.9 is a little too thick for my liking.   Martha

  15. Speaking of fountain pens . . .   I was browsing on-line not too long ago and I came across a Wahl-Eversharp pen (endorsed and used by Martin J. Dupraw and Mr. Zoubek).  I bought it right away.  It's very cool.  It has the Gregg emblem on the cap.  Once I received it, I found that it wasn't working.  I did some web searching and found a guy very close to my office who reconditions Wahls.  He fixed it up, replaced all the working parts and replaced the clip on the cap — all for $70.  All in all, the pen ran me about $100.  It writes like a dream.  The pen is probably from 1927-1928.    It's almost like owning a piece of Gregg history.  🙂   Okay.  I'm done geeking out now.   Peter

  16. I was at the local art supply store the other day (looking for portfolio cases to put my needlepoint in, so I don't have to disassemble the frame as often), and saw a wonderful selection of pens and drafting supplies and paper. Apparently with computers being used for drafting, the drafting supply places don't carry them any more, but artists love them. They had the 10/inch faint blue-line vellum graph paper, and compasses selling for $30 and up (as well as the garbage ones everyone buys their kids and wonders why the kids don't learn how to bisect a line. Uh, spend the extra $5 on a proper one and make the kid look after it, and he might pass (or, rather, stop holding back the entire class, including my son. Off soapbox.))

    Ages ago I bought flexible nibs for Pitman there (they called them calligraphic supplies), but they were just the nibs and needed frequent dipping; I don't know if they carried the fountain pens or I just didn't want to pay that much.


  17. I love writing with a fountain pen–used one all the way through graduate school and beyond.  But I've given up on them–good quality ink is hard to find and too expensive, newer fountain pens are of questionable quality, and they just aren't functional for modern demands with all the different kinds of paper and forms that have to be written on–not to mention standing, sitting, writing on a pad or clipboard, etc.   My standard pen now is the Pilot G-2 07 gel ink pen.  I usually write with blue, but the pen is available in great colors.  The color is intense and clear on the page.  The only problem is an occasional tendency to "blob" the gel ink, but it doesn't happen often enough to annoy me.    Of course a gel pen with a ball point doesn't work for classic italic handwriting.  Otherwise it does fine for me.   Alex 

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