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My history teacher requires his students to use pens on all their work, or he will not accept it. After using a pencil to complete a 50 question major test, I was told to write a two-page essay as make-up work. Naturally, I used Everything2 as my in-depth resource on the subject. The following essay is, word for word, the paper I turned in to him. This document is hereby released into the public domain.

Pencil or pen? Pen! Why? Read on!

A pen is a barrel filled with ink that flows out of the tip and makes marks on paper. Pens come in many varieties, such as the ball point pen, the fountain pen, the quill pen, and, more commonly, the broken, or "burst" pen. Which pen you choose to use is entirely your decision, although that decision depends on what you have available.

The primitive pencil, on the other hand, is a stick of wood, cut into a hexagon, with a lead (actually made out of graphite) in the center. They have various arbitrary numbers assigned to them, (No. 2, No. 4) but those numbers are hardly relevant to this paper. Like pens, pencils are also used to make marks on paper.

Now that you have a little background knowledge on pens and pencils and how they work, we can dive head on into our study. People used pencils to write with for years before the pen was invented. (Although some may argue that ancient writing tools more closely resembled the pen, the people who would put forth such an argument obviously don't know what they are talking about.) Pencils, being the crude instruments they are, are prone to causing a number of mishaps, and slowing down one's work.

When you press the lead of your pencil to your paper, you take a whopping 50% (percent) chance of that lead breaking right on the spot! And as you write, the chance of your lead breaking increases even more as the tip is worn down. A snapping pencil lead, aside from being a glaring safety hazard, causes unnecessary attention to be focused on the user of said pencil, (SNAP!) and also means that the user must now get out of his/her chair and travel to the pencil sharpener to resharpen his/her pencil. This could occur several times before he/she is finished with his/her work. This is a big hit to the worker's efficiency, and is highly unacceptable in the fast-paced business world of today.

Suppose that previously said user of previously said pencil happens to finish his/her previously said work. Even after the work has been finished, it is not out of danger yet: not by a long shot. Whenever any substance (read: ANY substance) comes in contact with the lead that has been pressed into that paper, there is an increased chance (read: 50% (percent)) of the pencil marks being smudged slightly, or even rubbed off entirely! This could mean hours of wasted work. Also, if the paper is kept around an environment where it might come in contact with any sort of liquid, the chances of the work being rendered unreadable skyrocket.

With the revelation of the pen, people finally had a choice. People use pens as an alternative to pencils for various reasons. There is little chance of your pen snapping into two pieces while it is being used, an instant plus. Not to mention that when ink has dried into a piece of paper, it becomes very hard to remove. Smudging becomes very unlikely, although there is always the chance that the paper will come in contact with those dreaded liquids, negating the "dried-in-ink" bonus.

Some people believe ink lends a more professional appearance to a paper. This belief has led to pens being made the standard in the business world. Other more mundane people simply prefer the black, blue, or even the odd green color that different pens can give them, as opposed to the even more mundane gray shades that pencils offer them.

Of course, one must not forget that pens do have their drawbacks. Unless you use a third-party utility such as "white-out", or one of those neato erasable pens, mistakes made while writing can be costly. A single misspelled word may mean the waste of an entire sheet of paper. Do you have any idea how many trees are murdered a year to produce a single sheet of paper? Neither do I, but wasting paper is still bad.

Keep in mind also that, pens, while sturdier than pencils, are quite breakable under the right circumstances. Have you ever placed a pen in the microwave for thirty seconds or so? The pen will almost surely not survive the process, (Nor will the microwave come out of the experience without a few scars) but a good pencil will make it out alive half the time. And since pens are basically just portable storage containers for ink, accidents had with broken (or "burst") pens are almost always messier than the messiest pencil accident.

Let us not forget the fatality rate among pens. On average, about 100(!) people all over the world choke to death on ball point pens EACH YEAR. That is much less than automobile-related and shark-bite-caused deaths in the U.S. COMBINED. Just something to keep in mind.

All things aside however, pens are obviously superior to pencils, and there is no reason WHATSOEVER that you should ever, ever, EVER use a pencil again after reading this study.

Information "acquired" without permission from various sources.
All facts verified by various trustworthy people I don't know on the Internet.

For more information on:

Pens, see: http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=pen
Pencils, see: http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=pencil

I once had a crush on a history teacher that also required pens, as opposed to pencils. He was gorgeous with a slightly balding head of black hair, a goatee, and a perfect-toothed smile. Maybe it was the fact that I did well in his class or the fact that he filled my brain to the brim with knowledge (the best form if intercourse), but I fell for him, and I fell hard.

I remember there was this test, and I was pressed for time, using a pencil of course… why? Well, I make mistakes, change my thoughts, and like to erase. So I was writing and writing, trying to put every single piece of information he had forced into my brain; ‘twas an essay test. Just before the class period was about to end, I finished… totally spent and excited. I thought that it was a perfect essay (or rather set of essays). I walked up to his desk to staple the sheets of paper together. I placed the test in the pile, looked at him and smiled… blushing a little I suppose. He looked at me, after looking at my paper.



He nodded at my paper. Graphite was smeared all over, and there were sweat marks. Actual sweat marks! Then of course there were the pressure marks where my nervous pencil writing pressed portions of writing onto the following page. In short, it was illegible.

The next day he said in front of the class, “Never ever use pencil on a test…” and I shrunk into my desk embarrassed. I swore to never use pencil again.

Weeks later, when he still hadn’t graded the tests, he tried to bribe us. He said that if someone brought in cookies, he would have them graded by Christmas break. Of course I made cookies and frosted them myself with fun red and green sprinkles. I attached a note with purposefully smeared writing… “Too Mr…. Please be kind to the pencil pushers.” I left the package on his desk, early in the morning while he was in the teacher’s lounge.

The next day, he brought in the tests. “Did someone bring in cookies?” a male asked.

“Yeah. Great ones.”

“Who was it?” a female asked.

“I… I am pretty sure I know who it was… they were very good.”

I melted in my desk very happily. I was a foolish eighth grader.

Occassionally, there are moments you remember clear as a photograph. Sometimes they're life-changing, significant events, but randomly, sometimes they're just moments which catch you off guard.

One particular moment that stands out in the vaults of my memory was placed in the dimly lit den of my childhood home. My father sat on the couch, adjacent to the chair upon which I sat. I gazed at him, with fullest admiration, as I watched him work the New York Times crossword... in pen.

He noticed my stare, and looked up. Spoke two sentences which the simplicity of and truth of have resonated within me since. "There is very little on this Earth which demonstrates more arrogance than a man working a crossword puzzle in pen. Never let anybody tell you otherwise."

A decade and a half, and thousands of crossword puzzles later, I still agree. Wholeheartedly.

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