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5 Perfect Pens for Midterm Season

If there was ever a time when someone asked to borrow your pen and you worried you might not get back your ink-filled friend, then you already know what a good pen can do. A proper fit can help you take faster notes and avoid excessive (and very real) hand cramping. And for those who love to colour code, certain brands can offer colour options that others simply don’t.

Between retractable pens and capped ones, gel ink and rollerball, or soft grip versus no grip, it can be hard to narrow down which one’s right for you. It’s a lot like finding a soul mate: it just clicks, sometimes quite literally.

While I’m no expert myself, I have acquired a few particular pens that I swear by. For the sake of keeping my ratings fair, I have selected these writing utensils based on their capability to take the best—and fastest—notes and because all five are widely-available both in stores and online. Let the countdown begin.

5   PILOT FriXion Ballpoint Clicker (0.7mm)

Remember the days when writing in ink meant your words on the page were absolute? Unless, of course, you were one of the few willing to carry around that goopy liquid white-out. If you’ve been looking for a pen with the power of permanence but the ability to erase quick mistakes, then you’ve found it with Pilot’s FriXion. Though not as smooth in its ink as the Pentel or Zebra brands, it’s a close companion for speed and taking decent notes. However, the only qualm is that the ink is heat sensitive, so under intense warmth or friction (as its namesake suggests) it can actually rub away. While this has never happened to my notes, the company actually warns you not to use it “when writing exams.” However, the brilliant fact that this is a pen that actually erases—doing what others cannot—leaves it in the running as my number five. Plus, they have a classic selection of bold colours to work with and are (here’s the cool part) refillable.4   STAEDTLER Triplus Roller Pen (0.4mm)

Ever forgotten to stick that cap back on your pen and then find it’s been hiding in the bottom of your bag for a week? Dried, alone, and no longer usable? Well, not with this one! One of the cool things about Staedtler’s ballpoint pen is that you could accidentally leave the cap off for days (which I’ve done often enough) and it is “dry safe,” meaning it won’t dry out after some time being capless. If you’re a stickler for crisp lines, then the water-based ink may not be as appealing but the pen makes up for it in the smooth writing, finer point, and long lasting ink (had mine for about a year now). What’s unique is that the pen itself is shaped like a triangle and fits really well in the hand. They come in small packs as well as a wider selection of ten lovely colours.

3   SHARPIE Fine Point Art Pen

One of the greatest takeaways from these beauties is that they do not bleed through paper. You heard it here! Especially if you’re using thinner notebook paper or writing on printer paper, flipping to the other side won’t reveal a carbon copy, saving you both notebook space and helping you not to squint when going back to study. While their felt tip can cause writing to be a tad bit slower, they hold up well against pressure and produce clean, fine lines. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend their use for long exams or moments where there’s a dire need for speed, but if you want to fill small spaces with readable writing and don’t want a tip that bleeds under highlighting, then these marker-like pens are your ideal match.

2   PENTEL EnerGel Deluxe Liquid Gel Pen (0.7mm)

Pentel was one of the first brands I used coming into university. The flow on the gel ink runs smooth and its silver space-like body is fun in a geeky sci-fi way. While retractable pens continue to flood the stationary market, the advantage of Pentel’s cap is that it helps to protect the ink from congealing in cold weather or pouring out too fast under heat. It also has a clear ovular window at the side of the pen to show when ink is running low. The EnerGel version of Pentel’s pen stays true to the classic blue and black. But, if you’re a fan of colour variety and like a little choice, they also offer a whole bunch of unique sets in sweet pastels to a funky 12-colour rainbow in their clickable 0.7mm style.

1   ZEBRA Sarasa Gel Retractable Pen (0.7mm)

I’m rating this brand as number one primarily on the grounds that it is the most efficient pen of the five. The 0.7mm ballpoint tip combined with their oil-based gel is the reason for the continuous flow and speedy handwriting. It is my go-to for class notes and, even in winter weather, has little to no congealing. There’s a reason the brand has become so increasingly popular in the art and bullet journalling community. It’s fast-dry and works well with light coloured highlighters, not to mention the bold array of colours they offer from Mahogany to Kelly Green. You can also track how much ink you’re using as the colour depletes from the clear inner tube. My advice is to buy these in bulk because, while the ink does appear nice and strong, I find it runs out a bit quicker than others. In the end, you trade wonderful quality and performance for, perhaps, just a little less quantity.

Final Thoughts

While I’ve included what I believe are the best five for note-taking and working through the exam season, be reminded that there are countless versions of each product with far more colour options and point sizes (typically running 0.3 to 1.0mm) and finding the right tools can entirely depend on what feels the most comfortable for you.           5 Perfect Pens for Midterm Season, Caitlyn Dube

So whether your professor is on their third cup of coffee and has decided to relay his or her lecture at the speed of an auctioneer, or you’ve been up till two in the morning memorizing countless rewritten notes for an upcoming midterm, you can now be ultimately prepared with the mightiest weapon that ever was—the perfect pen.

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Caitlyn Dubé

Western '20

Caitlyn Dubé is a traditional artist and a full-time student at Western University. She’s pretty sure 99% of her bloodstream runs on coffee and she likes to stock up on art supplies whenever she can. When not sketching up new illustrations, you can find her watching psychological thrillers, knitting a poorly-made scarf, or making mixed CDs like a 90's dweeb. For more of her art, follow her on Instagram @lipstickstains_on_coffeecups.
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