Pen and Ink: Nibs Both Fine and Broad

John Skoyles writes the column “Pen and Ink” and is a professor, a poet, and author of the memoir, Secret Frequencies: A New York Education.

When I was a kid, we learned to write cursive from teachers who had us trace letters that slanted to the right. Mine tilted left. Why? Because I was left-handed, but my mother made me use my right. (My mother is Italian, and the word for left is “sinistro”— perhaps she didn’t want a sinister son…) Whenever I reached for a fork, a ball, or a pen with my left hand, she tapped my wrist and made me switch. She succeeded, kind of. I learned to throw and bat righty, to open doors with my right hand, and now I do everything right-handed, including writing with the world’s worst penmanship.

I was so ashamed of my horrid handwriting that I made it tiny and unreadable because I wanted it to be invisible.

This was the beginning of my attraction to fine point pens, the finer the better. I thought the smaller my writing, the less noticeable it would be. As a kid, I was delighted in math class when we used graph paper. I bought a pack of it and wrote school assignments on it because it allowed me to imprison each letter in a miniature cell. And it was just a few years ago I learned that I could buy notebooks and pads of excellent graph paper, which were perfect for small writing.

When I re-discovered fountain pens, I went on a quest for fine and extra fine nibs. Sailor pens are my favorite in this regard— they manage to be fine and smooth at once. I also like Pilot and Platinum. I bought an EEEEF nib from a nibmeister, but sold it because it was like writing with a pin; very scratchy. I spent a lot of money on the finest nib that Sailor makes: a sai-bi togi nib, which was excellent, but I found that cheaper pens could be found that had almost as fine a point. The Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens, though not fountain pens, have extremely fine points and write beautifully. They are perfect for sketching as well as taking notes. When you can buy one of these for a few dollars, it is hard to justify hundreds.

A teacher once criticized my writing for being too “miniscule.” He said to make it “majuscule.” I thought he was joking, until I learned that miniscule is the name for lower case letters. And majuscule is a large or capital letter.

I have made some progress—I now have several fountain pens with broad nibs: a Pelikan, a Vanishing Point, an Omas, and a Waterman. Different color inks are more vivid with a wider line. Some inks, like Pilot’s Iroshizuku, shade beautifully, and this shading can be best seen with a broad nib.

So my desk has great pens, a range of beautiful inks, and quality paper, everything required for writing a letter, everything. And yet the recipient probably won’t be able to read it.

——————JetPens Giveaway!!——————

This contest has ended. The comment from Jackie was randomly picked as the winner. Jackie please refer to our latest post to confirm your identity and email us at jetpromos(at) to claim your prize!

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——————JetPens Giveaway!!——————

Get your own set of fine point pens. Win a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Gel Ink Pen – 0.3 mm – Basic Colors – 5 Pen Gift Set.


1. This contest is limited to US residents only.

2. Entries will be accepted from now until Friday, May 25th, 2012 at Midnight Pacific.

3. One winner will be selected at random from all entries and announced on the blog on Saturday, May 26th, 2012.

4. Winner has one week to respond to the winning announcement and claim prize before a replacement winner is selected, so please check back!

How to Enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post. (Counts as one entry)

2. CLICK HERE to tweet this contest. Leave a second comment on this post containing a link to your tweet. (Counts as a second entry)

If you would like to copy/paste the Twitter text instead, here it is:

Pilot Hi-Tec-C pen Giveaway in the latest Pen and Ink column!

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