From the 60-pack of Crayola crayons to BIC ballpoint pens, we’ve grown up a bit in our choice of writing utensils, but what do students prefer and why?
“Pens,” senior Mel Ness said without thinking twice. With a wave of her hand she continued, “Pencils smear. Plus, I’m left-handed.” Left-handedness can be a drag when it comes to taking notes in class. For that reason, erasable ink has become popular among some lefties.
Agreeing with Ness is senior Carrie Engen. “A pencil is smeary and messy,” she said. “I don’t like to always be erasing. If I make a mistake I’ll just rewrite it.”
Sophomore Nathan Nieuwendorp is also an avid supporter of using pens but isn’t bothered by the fact that they can’t be erased. “I never write in pencil,” he said. What happens when he messes up? He jokingly admitted, “I never mess up. You just write what you need to write and you just get on with life.” As an actuarial science major, Nieuwendorp takes a lot of math and business classes. When it comes to the neatness of his assignments, Nieuwendorp said that Professor “Lemke is a stickler.” Therefore Nieuwendorp said he only uses “black. Always black. Blue is only for graphs in my microeconomics class.”
In business and math classes like Nieuwendorp is in, taking notes on a computer isn’t allowed. “Profs don’t want us on the Internet,” he said. Regardless of their professors’ guidelines, it seems to be that many students choose not to use their computers in class.
“Absolutely not,” freshman Jordan Whitsell said. Taking notes on computers “takes a lot of time. You’ve got to set it up, load the documents, save your work. Plus it’s just easier to study when it’s written.”
Whitsell was only one of three students who chooses a pencil over a pen. “It’s easier to erase,” he said, “and some professors erase a lot.”
Freshman Chris Michael is another student who goes against the norm and chooses a pencil more often than pen. Why, you might ask? To Michael, the answer is plain and simple. “I make a lot of mistakes,” he said before adding, “in all of my classes.”
So what’s the deal when it comes down to the battle between pen and pencil? And why, in our techno-savvy generation, are students not using their laptops to take notes more often?
Whitsell may have nailed it on the head. Notes just seem easier to study when they’re written on good ol’ fashioned paper. Late nights staring at the computer and your eyes may start to strain. Lugging your computer to the top bunk as you promise to read over your notes one last time before falling asleep isn’t quite as easy as tossing a notebook on your bed before you climb up the ladder.
When professors upload their power points and expect students to click along with them in class, computers can be useful, but even with her professor’s notes available online, sophomore Taylor Culver still chooses to take her notes down longhand.
Computers may crash, but your notebook can’t fail you. The utensils we use, however, certainly can.
“Pens are kind of a pain when they stop working,” junior Kayla Kleinjan said. “Pencils are just annoying. I always run out of lead before I run out of ink.” Besides the sustainability an ink pen has, the option of color coordinating one’s homework is certainly a plus.
“Pens are easier to see on a notebook,” sophomore Eli Groenendyk said. “When I study for tests, I like to circle things with red ink – it’s easier to see.”
Sophomore Wil Van’t Hof chimed in as Groenendyk expressed his opinion. “Pens are easier to read,” he said. “And they’re not gray.”
Not only do some students think pens are easier to read, Culver claims they write more smoothly, too. But it’s best when she has a pad of paper under her pen rather than just one piece of paper on the table.
History professor Robert Winn is also partial to pens, but he’s not sure why. “I have pencils on my desk,” he said, “but I just usually pick up a pen.” Has it come down to instinct? You know what you like and you just stick with it?
For senior Charity Miles, her utensil of choice is whatever she has on hand. When she digs around in her bag, whatever she grabs first is what she uses. If it happens to be a pencil, it’s “never mechanical. I press too hard and end up breaking the lead.”
For Northwestern students and professors, it goes to show that pens are clearly the winner. For freshman Alex Herrington and junior Garrett Sterk, however, they had to admit, “If the quote is for the Beacon, I use crayon and pink gel pen.”
What makes one better than the other?
(Courtesy of Sparknotes.com)
Portability: You can stash your pencil behind your ear, thus transforming yourself into the intellectual type. Pens require pocket protectors which transform you into a nerd.
Artistic Merit: When you doodle in pencil you can call it a “sketch” because you can use shading techniques and smudging. Pen doodles just look like doodles.
Sound Quality: Pencil erasers add a bass sound to your table drumming. Pens, however, come in different styles, shapes and sizes, all of which create different audio tones and variety.
Stress Relief: A pencil can be broken into many tiny pencils—sort of like the pencils you would use to keep score in mini-golf. Breaking a pen does not lead to many tiny pens. In this case, you’ll most likely end up looking like a Rorschach Test.
Adhesion Test: You can write your homework on your hand with a pen. Try doing that with a pencil and you’re not going to know what your homework is.