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We’ve come a long way from the days when our prehistoric ancestors chipped images into cave walls with rudimentary chisels to get their messages across. There’s no end to the possibilities at our fingertips these days when we want to put words or images on paper. If you find yourself in a position to commit something to writing when your handy laptop or tablet isn’t appropriate, consider one or more of these best pens for notetaking. Mechanical pencils may be an option for those who prefer pencils.
Best Ballpoint Pen: The Classic Century Ballpoint by Cross
Cross is the name in pens and it has been for almost two centuries. And it doesn’t disappoint with this ballpoint. The Classic Century is one of the company’s most well-known offerings.
The ink flows smoothly and reliably. The ball mechanism is patented Cross. And, of course, it’s attractive, with chrome touches and the conical tip that these pens are known for. And it’s not like you’re going to toss it out when it runs dry—the Classic Century comes with its first refill and a lifetime warranty.
Best Fountain Pen: The Scribe Sword Fountain Pen
If fountain pens make you think of 18th-century scribes and calligraphers, think again. They’re still superior writing tools in the 21st century with a touch of class and some people refuse to write with anything else. The Scribe Sword fountain pen can handle calligraphy with no problem, but it’s ideal for executives and just about everyone else, too.
Unlike some lesser-quality fountain pens, this one has a very consistent ink flow — no blobs — with a medium, high-quality nib. It’s handsome and you can even have it engraved. Fear not if this is your first experience with this type of writing instrument. One of the best things about this pen is that it comes with extensive e-mailed instructions and you can even check out a tutorial on using it on Scribe Sword’s website. You have to purchase the ink separately, of course, but you can return the pen at any time under a lifetime warranty if it turns out to be not as promised.
Best Gel Pen: The Pilot G2 Retractable Premium
Some gel pens are known for going dry at the least opportune times, but not this one. Pilot’s G2 retractable pen underwent independent third-party ISO testing and it was still going when others gave out — two times longer than those others, in fact. And it’s refillable when it finally does run out. The refill is sold separately.
Gel pens are also known to smear, but Pilot’s G2 dodges this inconvenience as well. It writes smoothly and won’t smudge after you’ve put your thoughts on paper or signed your name. The grip is contoured for easy handling. These pens are sold in boxes of 12 and you can pick your own barrel design from casual to professional. You can also choose the ink color you want, as well as your point size.
Best Fine Point Pen: The Sharpie Fine Point
You might remember a time when Sharpie made only markers. That’s changed. This pen manufacturer, which also offers Paper Mates, now offers a wide range of Sharpie writing instruments as well, and this pen’s fine point is one of the better ones out there.
The flow is everything you remember from those big markers, smooth but durable, and the fine point offers a crisp and consistent flow. The ink doesn’t bleed through or smear when you use this Sharpie on paper and it dries with trademark Sharpie quickness. Choose from 10 awesome colors, or just use plain old black for a more professional appearance.
Most Convenient Pen: The PicoPen Mini-Ballpoint With Keychain Holder
Never scramble for a writing instrument again. This pen has a magnetized cap to hold it to your keychain, or even to your briefcase or belt buckle for that matter. It’s lightweight and small, less than three inches, so it won’t be unwieldy no matter where you attach it. And it’s perfectly comfortable to write with. Just pull the pen from its cap when you want to use it.
The PicoPen is compatible with Fisher refills. It comes in two versions, one is stainless steel and the other is long-lasting titanium.
Best Lighted Pen: Yacig Light-Up Pen, Pack of 2
If you work in a field that frequently puts you in dark surroundings, these light-up pens from Yacig are for you. Ideal for first responders, trade professionals, or anyone else who occasionally gets caught in less-than-ideal writing conditions, these pens have an LED light in the tip so you can see what you're doing, even in the dark. The barrel is made from heavy-duty metal for durability and a long life. Just click the button on the top of the pen to turn the light on high, low, or off. They're powered by a single AAA battery, so you can easily replace the battery when it dies and continue to use these pens for years. They come with a one-year replacement warranty for defects.
Best Pen for Durability: AUOON Tactical Pen
It might not be mightier than a sword but AUOON's Tactical Pen comes close, and it can be nice to have on hand if you often work late and have to find your ways into dark parking areas in the evening on your own. Used by Navy Seals, first responders, and SWAT teams, it looks like a pen and it writes like a pen, but it also breaks glass quite efficiently and acts as a non-lethal weapon.
It’s black and made of aluminum and Tungsten steel to stand up to just about anything you need it to do, including writing with it for years to come. It’s not cumbersome or difficult to write with despite its multiple purposes.
Best Disposable Pen: The Pilot V Pen Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen
Not everyone wants to elevate penmanship to a fine art. Some of us just want that handy ink-producer sitting next to the computer keyboard or tucked into a pocket or purse because you never know when you’re going to need a pen, right? But why settle for the disposable you somehow managed to come home with from the bank, complete with the bank’s name emblazoned all over it? Who says you can’t have a little class on a budget?
Pilot makes several varieties of disposable fountain pens so you can write elegantly at any time in any place without worrying about misplacing it. The nib is of the fountain variety — no skimping there — and the flow system is top-notch, using black ink. And it’s classy, too. It doesn’t look like one of those disposables that come encased in jarringly bright plastic.