The pen v. the pencil

Teddy Corcoran and Spencer Payne

In the wake of a term in which we shared our opinions on inconsequential topics, we have made it our New Year’s resolution to examine issues of greater importance. As a result, we have decided to take on the pen vs. the pencil debate. While considering each side, we ask that you keep an open mind. May the best utensil win.

The Pen

Ahh yes, the pen. With origins dating back to the quill feather in the seventh century, the pen is the undisputed weapon of choice for significant tasks. Bold, sweeping, and forceful, the pen has an undeniable air of importance and permanence.

Are you signing a check? Better use a pen. Are you writing your will? Better use a pen. Are you signing the Declaration of Independence? Better use a pen (well, a quill, but you get the idea).

Yet pens are not only best for the serious moments in life, they also glide across the page — allowing people to articulate their most creative thoughts with ease. Of course, everyone has different styles and preferences, but once a pen of choice is found, there simply is no turning back.

Some even go so far as to suggest that pens offer us a metaphor for life and a lesson on accountability.

“In life, you are going to make mistakes, but you can’t just go back and erase your problems away,” Jennings Huntley, ‘19, said. “You’ve got to own up to them. That is why I always use the pen.”

I couldn’t say it better myself.

**As a final note, I should make it clear that I am not going fall into the classic trap and argue that the erasable pen is the best of both worlds.  It isn’t. Weak both at writing and erasing, the erasable pen is the decided outcast of the pen family, and effectively illustrates that you simply cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pens are meant to be bold. They are meant to be brash. They are meant to be permanent. That is what makes them superior to pencils, and I refuse to apologize for it.


The pencil

The next time you are in class, take note of who is using a wood pencil. They are likely reserved, thoughtful, and insightful. Why? Because they take on the persona of their preferred writing instrument.

The pencil is not about flashiness or pomp; it is about understated style — much like a man’s button-down collar. Both have their limitations, sure. You cannot write for long periods without sharpening your pencil, and you cannot wear a large tie knot with a button-down collar. But the fact that a pencil must be sharpened is not a weakness, it is a strength. It keeps you grounded; it teaches patience. For every time your pencil dulls, you have to decide when enough is enough. At that point, you walk to the front of the class to sharpen it.  And, when you return to your seat after your short reprieve, you are afforded a fresh start.

Pencils also exude humility. Their users know that they will make mistakes and are not afraid to admit it. What’s that, you accidently dotted your t’s and crossed your i’s? Not a problem, if you have a pencil. Just flip it over and fix the issue.

And if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. I would be happy to talk with you personally. Just let me know, and I’ll pencil you in.