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The Ultimate Left-Handed Pen

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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!

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

72 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. I use a Uniball Jetstream pen. These pens have quick-drying inks so i do not have to worry about smudging my essay. All the other pens I’ve tried all smudge and this drives me CRAZY!!!

    (p.s I don’t hook, I write normally hence causing the smudge)

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  2. haha thanks for this, I feel so entirely validated now πŸ™‚ Years of binning Bic pens all “smooth-glide MY ARSE!”

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  3. Pingback: The 18 Worst Things For Left-Handed People!! | George's space

  4. For all the fountain pen issues, check out passionforpens.com out of the UK. They have a fountain pen designed specifically for us lefties! It’s great!

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  5. I’m a lefty, now 63, and used to write almost exclusively with a fountain pen in high school, then about half the time into my mid-30s. Then a loooong hiatus, until last year when I dug out the Sheaffer I’ve had since 1980 or so, cleaned it up and inked it again.

    Now I’ve got a dozen or 15 fountain pens with various types and sizes of nibs, and rotate through them, using pencils or -ball pens only rarely, such as when I’m stuck writing on cheap and nasty paper.

    I’m an under-writer, and rotate the paper I’m using 20ΒΊ to 45ΒΊ clockwise; no smearing, no mess, no skipping or poor ink flow, no digging into the paper with the tip of the nib.

    And with the much lower writing pressures, my increasingly-arthritic fingers are far happier manipulating the fountain pen than they ever are doing extended writing with a ballpoint type pen. And no “left-handed” nibs in the mix, or needed.

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    • I always wanted to be able to write with a fountain pen as I love the way it looks with strokes of varying thickness. But guess my technique just won’t let it happen. Glad that at least some lefties like yourself can do it! I’ll stick with my space pen (I’m on about my fourth as I lose them every couple of years) and stare at the moon in wonder! πŸ™‚

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  6. Pingback: 17 Inventions That Prove That The World Is Unfair To Left-Handed People

  7. Hi john….I’m lefty too and I’m facing with the same problem…I’ve been using ball pens and they tend to dry up just after writing 2 3 paragraphs…is there any other alternative to space pen???I used rollerballpens with liquid ink but they tend to slow me down…kindly suggest..thank u in advance

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  8. Whinging at its best
    Am lefthanded and the point/nib is above my hand in direct line with my forearm – no digging into paper and no smearing after writing.

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  9. It has been very interesting reading all these comments. I am nearly 58 and spent my life trying to find a good pen as a leftie. I 100% support John on the Fisher Bullet pen. I remember these being advertised from being a child but thought it was a gimmick. Attracted by the colours on Amazon, and my daughter wanting to know what to buy me, I went for it. A gorgeous blueberry pen arrived in it’s ‘moon’ case. I can’t believe how well it writes. Although it has been said it is down to the pressurised ink barrel, a good proportion of it for me is the way it feels in the hand and the way it is weighted. When looking reviews, many were disappointed that it was such a small pen. I guess I can see this might be a problem for those with large hands but ‘never say never’; this pen for me is like an answer to prayer. I have tried all the special left-handed pens like the Yoropen and just found them weird to use, not feeling right. The anything left-handed website is quite good but you do have to pick and choose. Some items are great, while others are poor quality or expensive for what they are. I write holding my pen in a peculiar manner, I don’t know if anyone else does it like me.Somewhere around the top end goes between my first and second finger; while my thumb goes upwards and across my first finger against the first phalange after the knuckle if that makes sense. Most hold a pen with the finger and thumb holding the top. I have tended to write slanted backwards, i.e. wrist bent and the writing going slanted to the left. I have just done an experiment after reading all the comments of writing slightly to the right, i.e. pushing slanted to the right. Maybe this is how most leftie’s write? In particular when they talk about the pen ripping into the paper? With the Fisher bullet though it is like gliding over smooth ice for me. This pen may not suit everyone as pens are a personal preference, but I can definitely see myself buying more as I have never been able to write anything like this: apart from my recently discovered Tombow blackwing pencil of course πŸ™‚

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  10. Well here I am, I’ve been left handed all my life and never thought to Google it! Late to the party as usual. I was over 40 when I FINALLY got a pair of REAL left handed scissors. I can’t explain the feeling of freedom! Never again will I have to beg my right handed family to cut something out for me!

    Nowadays on the internet you can find all sorts of amazing things. Someone actually MAKES a smudge guard! Genius idea! Have a look! https://smudgeguard.com There are multiple online stores selling not only actual made for lefty pens, but scissors, knives, bagel/bread slicers, assorted golf equipment, etc. There are some amazing inexpensive (under $5) ergonomic pens and pencils that work properly regardless of handedness and new, fast drying inks to prevent smudging. Personally, my handwriting has deteriorated so much since the advent of tablets + Swype that sometimes I can’t even read what I wrote. I wish I could get back just a small portion of the years I wasted perfecting my handwriting. What strange & amazing things have come to pass in my lifetime! It’s really mind boggling.

    John, thank you so much for this page. I’ve enjoyed reading it and the comments from other lefties. It’s nice to see solidarity in anything in these crazy times.

    Reply

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