In the pencil vs pen debate, parties from both sides make vehement (and sometimes barely logical) arguments in support their championed writing implement. According to proponents, a few reasons why pencils are better than pens (or vice versa) include:
Of course, to many people the pencil vs pen debate is irrelevant, since people rely on handwriting increasingly less these days and many posit that script will become unnecessary in all forms soon. Regardless of this factor, it’s worth noting that many of the most common points made in favor of either pens or pencils refer to physical aspects of the writing instruments. What if we took a more philosophical approach?
Obviously, we’re big fans of pens here at National Pen. We sell pens, customize pens, create pens, invent pens, and pretty much talk about pens all day long. We even decorate our offices with pens (seriously, we have pen patent artwork on the walls).
Sadly, so much focus on pens here at National Pen means that the pencil goes under-celebrated, which is a cryin’ shame. There is grace, nobility, and even a quiet kind of heroism in using a pencil. There’s nothing in a pencil (like a plunger, ballpoint, or fancy-pants gel ink) that makes it easier to write with. Writing with a pencil often feels scratchy, because the writer is exerting his or her own force to directly connect with paper.
Pencils also need to be sharpened—they don’t just show up ready to do our bidding the way pens do. Nope, you need to earn it with a pencil. Sharpening a pencil is simply the homage we must pay to this primitive yet surprisingly enduring writing instrument in all its perfect simplicity.
The real reason, however, that pencils are so fantastic doesn’t have anything to do with graphite lead or even the pencil itself. The real reason pencils are better than pens, hands-down, is that they have erasers.
Many adults seem to prefer pens to pencils because they associate pencils with children. It’s true: children are far more likely to use pencils than adults are.
But simply because pencils are used more commonly by children than by adults does not mean that pencils are somehow more infantile or childish than pens are. On the contrary, we suggest that using a pencil instead of a pen is a sign of maturity.
One of the main reasons kids use pencils is because they have erasers. In any learning process, it is natural, normal, and expected that mistakes will be made. Especially in the lower grades, children are learning new things all day long. In fact, kids learn new things (and make mistakes while learning those things) at a rate that would likely overwhelm most adults. However, the thing is, kids are expected to make mistakes, learn from them, and correct them—so erasing and re-doing is no big deal.
Many of us view moving from pencils to pens as a sort of rite of passage, a sign that we are (or are nearly) grown up. But in this context, does being a grown-up mean that we are less likely to make mistakes?
Honestly, grown-ups make just as many mistakes as kids do. Sure, our mistakes may not be made on arithmetic worksheets or spelling tests. Grown-up mistakes have much more extreme consequences—repercussions that can’t be rubbed out with an eraser. Wouldn’t it be so great to have an eraser for life mistakes?
At what point in our development do mistakes become something to fear? What’s wrong with getting something wrong, then trying again until we get it right? Nothing.
As James Joyce said, “Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” Mistakes offer humans their most direct access to learning, improvement, and growth.
The truth is, everyone makes mistakes because that’s how we learn and grow. Erasers are for people who are willing to correct their mistakes.
Pencils are a physical, tangible representation of the fact that we are all fallible, but that we are committed to learning from our mistakes. And that, friends, is why pencils are better than pens.
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