One of the most annoying aspects of being left-handed is the simple act of writing with a pen. You see, the pen – and more specifically the ball point pen – has a fatal flaw. They were designed by right-handed people. Let me explain with a picture and some arrows:
As you can see from the picture, I’m writing from left to right and I’m left-handed. The problem is that a ball point pen is designed to allow ink to flow out of the nib while it’s being moved across a page. This principle works well if you’re right handed since you spent 99% of your time with the nib facing away from the direction of travel. But write left-handed and most of the time is spent with the nib pushing directly into the paper itself, preventing the free-flow of ink to the page. Write a paragraph or two and the ball point pen will often dry up, you’ll need to scribble a bit and you’ll be able to carry on.
It’s like stroking a cat. If you stroke it from head to tail (and it’s a friendly cat) it will most likely purr and be nice to you since that’s the direction its fur grows. Stroke it from tail to head on the other hand and – unless it’s one of those mad cats that likes it – the moggie will look at you in a particularly unimpressed fashion before hissing at you / biting you / scratching you / walking away and ignoring you for a while / hissing at you then biting you / hissing at you, biting you then scratching you and so on…
Don’t even get me started on fountain pens. I don’t care what you say, it is physically impossible to write with a fountain pen when you’re left-handed unless you adopt some wrist-straining style of holding a pen. But the risk of arthritis in later life makes it a non-option for me. There are myriad other types of pen that have their own particular problems but there is one that turns out – completely by accident – to be the ultimate left-handed pen.
I am talking about the amazing fisher space pen. The incredible technological advances in the modern world are truly remarkable and none more so than the space pen. It was designed so that astronauts – whose pencils had broken and were stranded without a pencil sharpener in space – were still able to write shopping lists in a zero gravity situation. (At least, that’s what I’m assuming the design goals were).
I could explain to you exactly how it works by quoting the instructions but you wouldn’t understand it – I surely don’t – it’s just far too advanced for our human brains! But the bottom line is that the ink cartridge is pressurised so that even if you try writing upside down, or underwater, or… eh… upside down and under water, the ink will still flow. And of course, if you just happen to be left-handed writing from left-to-right (or right-handed writing right-to-left) then you’ll be thrilled to discover that the space pen won’t dry up on you mid-sentence! I bought one on impulse a few years ago and discovered this left-handed miracle and meant to spread the word but I’ve been too busy finishing all those sentences I’d half-written when the ink had dried up.
Even better, you don’t have to be left-handed to own one! Apparently (as you can see in the picture at right – click for the full version) if you dress like the Village People, then you can own one too!
[As an aside, the people who designed this brochure have the best job in the world. Imagine you’ve been given the brief along the lines of: “We want this flyer to show tough, rugged people that normal Joe’s aspire to doing tough, rugged things with their space pens. Oh, and if you can make it a bit camp too then even better!”. Must have been a real laugh.]
But on a more serious note (and being left-handed is a serious business), if you’re left handed and you’ve been left frustrated and let-down by pens in the past, then your choice is clear. You can either use a frikin’ pencil or buy a space pen! If you go for the latter (the right choice) then be prepared for other left-handed people demanding to know how you can keep writing paragraph after paragraph without pausing for breath. Just point them at this article and I’m sure they’ll make the right choice too!
Surely the flaw is not with the pen (which has no directional bias), but with the culture that has decided that text should be written from left to right. Presumably most writers of arabic (right-to-left) language are left-handed? Or learn to type? 🙂
Yes, I think you’re right. A right-handed culture seems to be at the root of the problem. Such discrimination shouldn’t be allowed – we should write top to bottom!
with little research you will find out that this is an old concept, Papermate company came up with this idea and still in use after 40 + years, and they have built pump in the ink cartridge and as you push the pen into the paper to write, the pump will push the ink to the tip (ball) of the pen. And this works just as nice if not better, and I can say from experience that it will write in any position as well and never will dry up on you, as for Fisher space pen if you get the med, broad (which I have both)after some use the ink will start ooze out, and often you will have dirty tip and the first letter is not the cleanest one every single time you write!!!!!!
I am also ambidextrous, and have been searching hi and low, left and right and cheap and expensive for perfect writing instruments, and I found the Gel pens working really nice and smooth, and as for the fountain pens, one of the best I have worked with was the waterman, anyone of them will work perfect as they slide on paper unlike anything else I have seen, it is almost effortless.
also some Italian and Japanese pens are very nice too, as the nibs are slightly flexible and not as rigid as many German brands. another problem many of us lefties face is the tight grip on the pen which causes the problem and makes the nib dig into the paper.
Another good pen is Tombow, unfortunately I was under impression that the more expensive the pen the better and easier to write with, but after spending small fortune on Mont Blanc, it turned out that a $5 student fountain pen put the museum piece to shame.
There are lots of theories out there, and what works for one may not work for the other, but the best idea for lefties is the fountain pen should be angled like our right foot toes and ball shaped tip, with medium nib and not too wet ink flow, there are quiet few manufactures making such pens and are reasonably priced, and extremely durable too, Lamy, Pelikan, Tombow, are just a few, unless you want to fork over lot more for customizing your pen than the pen actually is worth!!! This is best way to go about it to get some pleasure out of writing with fountain pen.
Well all I can say is that I’ve been using my Fisher space pen for the past 2 years (since I wrote this article) and it’s behaved impeccably. I have tried gel pens before but found they have a tendency to leak a bit more ink than I wanted, but I guess it depends on writing style / luck / etc. I guess you just use what works for you and what works for me is one of these pens!
Do you want to know what else is the problem with being left handed??
We smear everything we write (particularly pencil)
so no matter how neat our handwriting is (which most of the time it’s not for left handed people) the page is still messy!
And as an added bonus left handed people die earlier (check out Wikipedia)
Clearly I need to invest in this pen!
Ah yes, that’s rather annoying too! Fortunately the space pen’s ink dries very fast so you may not get the smearing problem. If you buy one let me know how you get on!
Left handers die earlier?! Eek! Is this a good time to mention that I’m actually ambidextrous?!
Cor, I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous… :p
As a handwriting improvement specialist, I taught myself to write left-handed in order to help lefty clients. This may entitle me to post on the matters mentioned …
/1/ the Arab world has a VERY strong taboo against left-handedness – e.g., Saudi Arabia actually has and enforces a law against using the left hand in public. (Some terrorist-watchers think this law and the related social attitudes may have contributed to warping the mind of Saudi native Osama bin Laden, a known left-hander seen shooting with a left-handed rifle in surveillance footage.) So … how do all thosa Arab right-handers write right-to-left? Simple: they use a paper-position that makes this possible and easy.
/2/ Certain paper-positions also help left-to-right left-handed writers (who mirror-reverse the situation of right-hand-writing Arabs). I know quite a few fluently writing left-handers who use ballpoints and even fountain-pens: one lefty fountain-pen junkie even has a web-site on the subject. (I forget its URL, but would suggest Googling “left handed” and “fountain pen” and “writing.”)
Also check my web-site (below) for lefty info/resources such as the excellent book/CD-ROM series LEFT HAND WRITING SKILLS by Christopher Marshall. If you order it, please state that I referred you.
Ian: Ha ha!
Kate: That’s interesting, I’ll have a look (particularly with reference to fountain pens). I have noticed over the years that a lot of lefties have been taught a poor way to hold a pen[cil] and as a result have terrible writing – I’m lucky in that I have fairly neat handwriting (well, I like to think so), but then my mother was left-handed so learning from her probably helped. Thanks for the info! 🙂
I’m left handed and use fountain pens exclusively.There is no better pen for writing. It’s the most comfortable writing experience I’ve ever had and I know a number of lefties who feel the same way.
Really? But if you’re writing left-handed, the pen will spend a lot of its time moving from lower left to upper right which surely can’t work with a fountain pen. Do you have some way of holding it that stops this movement? Unless it’s just me and the way that I write that’s wrong!
Lots of lefties prefer fountain pens because they write much more smoothly. Your problem is that fountain pens are designed to be used at a particular angle. Try a ball-point or kugel (German for ball) nib which is usable at most angles. There are also nibs that are angled in various ways, but it’s kind of hard to guess which one of those you could use. If you can, find a specialty shop that will let you try out angled nibs.
I’ve tried fountain pens. I just end up scratching and ripping the paper. I’d like to know which work best for lefties.
That’s interesting Christine, I didn’t realise there were different options for fountain pen nibs – I just gave up on them years ago at school. I’m still sticking with my space pen for now though! 🙂
My 20 year old son is a lefty and has just revealed to me that his pens are always drying up when he writes.
He does not have any special pens, just pens.
I thought I would google “left handed pens”, and came up with this blog.
Thank you all for your comment sharing. I will now head to the market to purchase one of those space pens.
I purchased one of the space pens.
I’m lefthanded too, and find that the ink doesn’t dry quickly enough, leaving smears. Perhaps it’s the medium point and the fine would work. I don’t know. But I’m returning the pen.
Ah, that’s a shame Kevin. I guess it depends how you’ve been taught to hold a pen. Whereas smearing the ink has never been a problem for me (you can see the angle I hold the pen at the top of the page), I know of quite a few other lefties that have been taught to hold their pen in an almost fist-like position which greatly increases the chances of smearing.
ah i m a lefty to, when i was younger my writing was unrecognizable, my mum had to battle to get me one to one tuition in school. this help me to learn how to write correctly. i feel it is sad how so many left handed people have a problem with there writing as theres not much to the strategy, just knowing how to position your paper and how to hold your pen helps you to write as fluently as a right handed and without and smudges on you page. However i was young when i was shown how to right it may not be as easy for an older person, getting into the habit of writing differently
if you Google how to write left handed there is information on there to show you how. also Google left handed shop and you will find a shop that sells all sorts of things for people that are left handed
Looking at a left handed shop I didn’t realise there were so many things that could be converted to be left handed. Sure, left-handed potato peelers and such like I’ve come across before but a left-handed wall clock that goes anti-clockwise (apparently the natural direction for lefties) is a bit OTT for me! 🙂
I turn the paper or keyboard or whatever I am writing on or typing on and that usually helps, though I do remember having more than a few teachers amazed at writing at what is sometimes almost a 90 degree angle. But it works most of the time (except when it comes to spiral or three ring binders or notebooks and things like that) so i stay with what works…for me at least that is…
About spiral books – they work fine (yes, i’m a lefty), just turn them upside down and backwards so the spiraled side is on the right. This will of course confuse anyone who opens your notebook, but this prevents the spiral from digging into your arm.
Ha ha, good idea! And would definitely stop any right-handed person from stealing your spiral bound notebook!
Fisher space pen sells refills that will fit most brands of pens. I am a “lefty” and I’ve put Fisher pressurised refills in my Parker, Cross, etc. pens. Fisher refills are available on internet at Fisher, Writers edge , and other websites.
hello everyone im a lefty and so is my daughter, could not get on with the pens out, my daughter use to hold her pen in a fist and always came home with ink up the side of her hand,so we challenge our selves as parents to find a solution to her problem,we came up with the swan neck pen, we have spend time getting this to the market as we dont have a large international company behind us, you can veiw the pen on the internet just type in swan neck pen. i hope this is of some use to you people kind regards heather.
I’m looking for your website?
Pls let me know about your pen.
Did you design and sell it??
I just found this website yesterday while trying to shop for left handed college writing supplies. It is awesome! It not only has pens that have the mechanics of the nibs and balls suited for left handed people, but true left handed scissors and pencil sharpeners that have the blades the other way so it is easier for a left handed person to use.
I’ve never really thought of standard pens being a problem — certainly I’ve had the smear problem. I’ve done a bit of calligraphy in the past, and was even able to use fountain pens without too much of a problem (other than smearing). I had always thought that most of the ancient Hebrews must have been left handed, as Hebrew is written right-to-left: however, I found it that this was due to the fact that the language was originally sculpted onto stone tablets (by righties, of course).
My favorite pen is a ball point — the Bic Accountant Fine pt. I don’t think Bic makes them anymore; a year or so ago, I ordered a box on eBay. I’ve never used the space pen, but I did have an early experience with erasable pens (do they make them anymore?) — talk about smearing!
Now, of course, I type 99% of the writing I do (I’m a technical writer), so pens are less important to me than they used to be.
I do agree with the idea but I also hate how the ink smudges on the side of the your hand when your writing. If only there were an invention to fix this problem.
I have to disagree with your premise. There are plenty of fountain pens that work well for left-handers. I know: I’m left-handed and I’ve used pens like the Sailor Professional Gear, just to name one example. A forgiving nib will work wonders, especially if it’s a sizable one.
The Fisher space pen website has many pens to chose from – is there a particular one that is better for lefties than others?
Hi Liz! I just bought the classic black space pen – I think it’s called a ‘bullet pen’. The magic is really in the ink cartridge rather than the pen itself so as long as it’s pressurised you’re fine!
Thanks, John – I’m looking forward to trying it out. Have been searching a long time for the “right” pen. Cheers.
I love this site. I am a 40 year old leftie who uses a fountain pen. I have very large hands for a woman (size 11 ring size) and need a sizable pen. Now, I am a leftie that turns paper 90 degrees to the right. I write from top to bottom. Therefore, I don’t experience the smudging. I am now using the Laban Mento fountain pen for size. It is lighter than I would prefer, but I haven’t found a fountain pen that is heavy enough for my liking. But I LIKE THIS PEN! Very nice. I use a medium nib. I use it for everyday writing with no fatigue at the end of the day. If anyone can recommend a sizeable pen that’s a little heavier, let me know.
I came across the Yoropens today. I’m going to try one out and see how it works…. It is off set and not only should I be able to see what I am writing, but my hand won’t run across the wet ink either!! They have them on left handed sites and at office depot.
I am a lefty and a techie so I have both the problem of smearing and that over the years my handwriting has gone to crap! I used to use ballpoints and the smearing got on my nerves. Nevery could bring myself to re-orienting the paper or curving my hand where it appears I am almost writing upside down.
Now I use a fountain pen – sometimes if I am careless I get the smudgies but most of the time its ok. I do find however, that if I have to write for extended periods of time, my fingers just get tired.
I saw a reference for the swan neck pens and there is also one which I have been following for a wile – the yoropen.
I am definitely going to get me one of those and give it a go – it basically moves the pen portion out and away from your hand so you can maintain normal comfy writing attitude and not have to worry about the smudgies.
They yoro looks sexy as well, and they also make a pencil in the same design.
Now…since we are all lefties here, how about lefty watches (I wear mine on my right hand)and the crown faces IN, so a lefty watch would have the crown face out like it would be if worn on the left hand.
Why do I wear it on the right hand…..because it gets in the way when I am writing and doing other left handed stuff where a watch would normally not be a factor.
I’ll look for the space pen; thanks for pointing it out.
Lately I’ve switched to pencils; I’ve found some nice drafting pencils, “Graphgear 500” by Pentel in various lead sizes. They have an excellent grip and balance. I too turn the paper 90 degrees, so I don’t often smear, but when I do, that’s what the eraser is for. I just wipe off my pinky finger from time to time. Try the Steadtler Mars eraser — nothing I’ve tried works better.
As for notebooks, I use ones that have the spiral at the top. (Holding the paper 90 degrees means that the spiral is bad on either side.) There isn’t as much variety out there for top-bound spiral notebooks, but you can find them if you look. For example, Clairefontaine makes nice notebooks.
Yeah, until I came across the space pen I tended to use pencils myself too – much easier to tidy up! It’s a shame that since I work on a computer I don’t actually find myself writing much at all. Weeks can go by without my writing a single word with pen or pencil!
As a 64 year old lefty, who pretty-much muddled through trial-and-error and, although I have been told I have very nice penmanship, writing is very tiring. Smudges, ink-stained hand, and spiral-bound indentations (upside down when the page is laid-out with standard margins is not completely practical) are all a problem. So I use a keyboard and left-handed mouse whenever possible.
Has anyone tried the PenAgain – especially the newer soft version? Recently I tried one in a store and it was so comfortable for writing left-handed.
In nurses training my 2 lefty friends and I wrote notes right to left – it was easy for us to write and read. When the notes were “intercepted” our instructors were completely baffled.
Update: I went looking for a space pen, and (of course) turned to ebay. There I found “Cyber Space Pens”, who have been great to deal with, answering my questions almost immediately. The best part: many of their pens come with free engraving, and they were willing to engrave “upside down” for lefties. My pen has arrived… I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to ball-points again but I can tell this one is worth a try.
I know this thread is a bit old, but my two cents is this: I am a left-hander and use gel and fountain pens exclusively, with extra fine points in both cases, unless I’m doing calligraphic work.
I never smudge or catch my nibs on the paper, and it’s as simple as turning my paper at about a 45-degree angle to the right. I am also what they call an “underwriter,” so rather than my hand following my text, it’s below it at all times. It would probably be annoying to someone trying to adapt to my way for the first time, but I’ve written like that all my life, and it’s second-nature to me; I don’t even think about it.
I will say, not to demean your choice in any way, that I hate the Fischer Space Pen. I have owned two; both of them consistently globbed ink all over the place, no matter how many refills I bought, hoping I’d just gotten another bad one. I’m glad you’ve had such good luck with them, though – it’s great to have a favorite pen that really works and can always be gone back to. ^_^
Really? That’s strange as my space pen has behaved impeccably and never put so much as a single glob of unsightly ink anywhere! Maybe I’ve just been lucky with them!
Hey everyone! Im a lefty as well and have recently found that felt tip pens dry really fast compared to ink. Its what I take all my notes in now. There is the new Sharpie Pen, yes pen, not permanent marker that I love. The only down side to felt tip is if you write a lot sometimes the tip wears down, but that takes quite a while and some are better than others.
Hey john. I’m from India and the pens you suggested aren’t available over here. Being a lefty i also face such problems. But no solution available. So please suggest something.
I stand by the pressurised space pens – I’ve never come across another pen that works as well for lefties. You could always get one online sent from a country that does sell them. Or failing that, stick with a pencil! 😉
In this day and age when our public schools do not even teach long hand, that’s cursive for some of the younger people, and script for those trying to find these words in a word processor, it seems like a non factor. On the other hand I am a lefty with a broken left hand at the time and found that many pens I had thrown in a drawer as being useless, even after scribbling, started working now that I write with my right hand. Mostly I use gel pens exclusively and even those seem to stop working for me before the ink was used up. Felt tips were my second choice, with a fine or extra fine tip and usually the tips would fracture so it would look like calligraphy after a while. I will look into the space pen when my hand heals and I have been told that other left handed pens are out there, you can tell the pen by the writing, when held in the left hand you can read the writing on a left handed pen. Is this true? My main problem is that I like to write in different colors, green for scouts, purple for thoughts, and brown for correspondence, black and blue if I have no choice, any suggestions on colored pens for lefties?
I am a righty mom of 2 lefty children. My 13 year old son has adapted to conventional writing instruments. My 10 year old daughter walks around branded with the lefty ink or pencil drag on her hand all day. She has begged me to find a pen (and pencil if possible) that dries quickly so she doesn’t have to be marked. Although the suggestion of the Fisher Space Pen may be her best option, she is 10 which means the likelihood of her losing the pen is very high. Are there any less expensive, easily replaceable options I can offer both of my kids? Love to hear some suggestions.
I’m a lefty and push the pen, so nearly all ball pens jam up (and most smear). My aunty gave me a space pen, same problem.
I use non-ball pens with porous plastic tips. The trouble with most of these is that they smear, and a drop of water will make even dry ink bleed all over.
The pen I use now is the Pilot V Razor Point. The ink in these is great: it doesn’t smear and is water proof. They’re cheap enough, too. Still downsides though: they won’t survive an airplane ride, and the plastic tip isn’t really strong enough to write checks, where enough pressure must be applied to show up on the imprint.
Overall, I don’t have to worry about the downsides often, and these are great pens. I always have one in my pocket, and if I lend it out, I’m maniacal about making sure I get it back!
The space pen jammed up? Strange. I still use mine to this day and it’s still never missed a beat! Maybe we hold our pens differently I guess.
As an ambidextral (And probably a very strange one at that.) I actually have the opposite problem.
I only smudge ink when writing right handed. When I write with my right hand I get ink everywhere, however, left handed I don’t get ink anywhere or hardly anywhere.
The reverse is true for drawing however. If I draw right handed, I hardly smear at all, but left handed I get ink everywhere. >.>
I don’t hook my hand though, maybe that’s why. I’ve seen people write left handed all cramped up and hooked and it left me thinking “That looks SO uncomfortable!”
I dunno. My only gripe is that a lot of pens really don’t write quite as easily in the left hand. It’s only marginally different for writing, but still, any hindrance is still hindrance.
I wish you all the luck with finding pens to co-operate.
My only knowledge is to avoid fine tipped pens at all costs, whether left handed or right handed. The buggers don’t seem to write well either way.
And to those of you who have learned to use a fountain pen, I give you kudos. I can’t use one with either hand. >.<
Here’s the affordable pens that have worked for me;
Pilot Easy Touch Medium Point – works really good for left handed writing. It writes as soon as you put it to paper and it has a rubber grip near the tip. Grade: A+
Paper Mate Write Bros. Grip Pen – the medium point puts down the ink kind of heavy while the fine point is more concise. The soft rubber grip is really good for the fingers. Grade: A
Paper Mate Write Bros. Pens – the fine point seems to be the best, it doesn’t slop as much as the medium point. Kinda hard on the fingers without the grip. Grade: B
Bic Round Stic Medium Point – it’s a little thicker than the Paper Mate and doesn’t have a grip. As long as you don’t put a very hard grip on it, it’s comfortable. Grade: B-
Since writing with my left hand in certain situations (like with spiral notebooks) has become hard I’m trying to teach myself to write with both hands. It’s not as easy as it sounds…
I’ve always written weird-sometimes really big and at a slant. probably because the spiral on my notebooks always gets in the way. Does anyone know if there is such thing as left handed notebooks? I could REALLY use one.
Just use the “back” of the pages so the spiral is always on the right.
Yes. Back in the past century, when I was in college, I discovered spirals for lefties and spent the money to get them. But, understand, I was in college, and it didn’t take me long to figure out I could get the same result by just buying a cheap spiral and writing from back to front. In classes where teachers required journals to be turned in, it took them a couple times hearing that I wrote from back to front to believe I wrote from back to front, but they eventually caught on. As far as pens, I refused to write with pens for years. I used strictly mechanical pencils. Now, I use Wexford pens with no real problems. Yes, I get ink on the side of my hand, but it washes off pretty easily. I have no smudging problems on paper and I have no ink stoppage problems. The pens are very light and ergonomic to boot, and I’m, ahem, older (after all, I was alive almost in the middle of the prior century!), so that’s important to me.
I too am a lefty, and have issues with fountain pens. I haven’t tried the space pen, but I do suggest the Uni-ball Signo Micro 207. When I write I push pen to paper with quite a bit of unneccesary force, and the pen has never failed me. The drying time is not instantaneous, but is definitely reasonable. I wouldn’t recommend to a lefty that drags his/her hand across the paper.
I use a Staedtler stick 430 F pen. Its a fine tipped ball point and is the only pen I can write neatly with. Only the blue and red inks work – the black is terrible. I still smudge and the ink occassionally gets stuck, but the thin pen and narrow ball point give me more control. I checked out the swan pen but that involves writing with your hand vertically under the writing – who does that? My pen grip is good and my hand position is to the left of the writing so I have no issues being able to see what I’m writing. I take my Staedtler everywhere and will be devastated if they ever stop manufacturing them.
That was quite informative about pushing the pen. I have been struggling with this for a long time. I’m going to check out the pen.
I hate to spend too much on a pen. I always seem to give them away. maybe if I found one that would keep writing I would guard it with my life.
[…] The ink will never flow as well for lefties, so our pens stop up more. Source: johnsadventures.com […]
I’m left-handed and write just fine with all sorts of pens. I guess ballpoints do sometimes run out, but I’ve only noticed that with a few specific older pens. My fountain pens work fine and I write with a good hand position since my dad, also left-handed, taught me when I was young. Specially-designed pens are great things and children must be taught how to hold pens and pencils properly by age 7 whichever hand they use, but that’s not to say it’s impossible to use certain types of pen with your left hand.
[…] Source: johnsadventures.com […]
Omg my gf and I are lefty and we are always complaining about pens and pencils and by the time we get to the third paragraph it’s all faded even though there is still ink left it left we very puzzled as I kept trying to figure out why this happened and don’t even get me started on white board markers and pencils with smudgy ink if these guys can fix that then Shannon and I will be so happy