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Anybody who’s spent any length of time actually hand-writing something has a favorite type of pen, and they all have discriminating preference. One person may only want to write with a retractable medium-point ballpoint pen with blue ink, whereas another can’t go without her extra fine-point rollerball black ink pen with a cap.

There are three major kinds of pens: rollerball, ballpoint, and fountain. All three pens have advantages and disadvantages unique to their design, so the perfect pen for you really depends on what you want out of your pen. Here are the pros and cons for each type of pen, to help you in your decision of which to buy.

Ballpoint pens: The utilitarian

Ballpoint pens are everywhere. In 2005, Bic sold its hundred billionth ballpoint pen, to give you an idea of how many there are circling the globe. The ink ballpoint pens use also lasts a long time, doesn’t bleed through paper, and dries quickly enough that it resists smudging. You also don’t have to worry as much about a ballpoint pen leaking ink over your shirts or pants, unless you run it through the washing machine.

Though ballpoint pens are typically very simple and practical, it is possible to find some that are a little more sophisticated than average. Some major brands, like Graf von Faber Castell, create ballpoint and rollerball pens in the same lines as their fountain pens, so you can get elegance and utility in the same pen.

The cons of ballpoint pens are that there’s a limit to the places they can write. They can’t write on wet or oily surfaces, and neither can they write upside down or up against a wall. Ballpoints also have fewer ink colors available, as opposed to fountain pens and rollerballs, because of the consistency of the ink. They also require more pressure to write cleanly, so if you’re going to be writing a lot, be prepared for hand strain.

Fountain pens: The classic

Smooth, elegant, timeless: all these are words to describe the simple, stylish fountain pen. While ballpoint pens are more widespread today, fountain pens have been around for centuries. The ink flow is smooth and even and requires almost no pressure in order to produce clean, legible writing. People who have arthritis or other hand problems may find fountain pens easier to use than ballpoint. Plus, a single fountain pen can use a variety of colors, and all you have to do is change out the ink.

Fountain pens also imply sophistication. They’re very useful for professional art, penmanship and calligraphy, and their use associates them with class, status and elegance. Good quality fountain pens are built to last; if used correctly, they can outlive their owners several times over. Many major pen brands create pens that are virtually works of art themselves. For example, Graf von Faber Castell offers Classic Pernambuco, a line of pens that are made from the same wood used to craft violins.

For all their advantages, fountain pens are typically not suited for convenience and daily use. Many people may not want to deal with the hassle of changing out ink. Fountain pens require a little more care than ballpoint pens or rollerballs, and if something goes wrong with them, you usually have to spend some time figuring it out as opposed to tossing it and getting a new one.

Rollerball pens: The compromise

Rollerball pens combine the everyday practicality of a ballpoint with the smooth, even ink flow of a fountain pen. Like fountain pens, they have a greater variety of colors and require little pressure to write cleanly. Like ballpoint pens, they’re convenient for everyday use.

Plus, rollerball pens come with either liquid ink or gel ink. The brighter colors of gel ink show up on darker paper, so if you’ve got an art or scrapbooking project, a rollerball pen may be the way to go.

The disadvantages of a rollerball are mostly ink-related. The ink is dispensed through the tip more quickly, meaning that it won’t last as long as a ballpoint pen. Though the ink is easier to read, it also seeps through paper, making your writing illegible should you write on both sides of the sheet. Also, gel inks don’t flow as readily as liquid inks, which means you could get a lot of blobs or skipping while you’re writing with them.

Choose your pen wisely

With all the digital technology of today, it may seem that pens are merely a relic of the past. Why write it out when you have a computer to do the work for you?

But pens have an advantage that computers do not, beyond their sleek sophistication. They give you connection: both physical and personal connection to the words that you’re writing, as well as a connection to all the writers in the past that scribed their works by hand.

Where everybody’s “words” look the same on computers, with pens each letter is uniquely yours, committed to paper in your handwriting. Choose the pen that works for you, and enjoy a new level of connection with everything you write.