WhatsApp, iMessage and email might be the ways most of us tend to communicate these days but that doesn't mean we don't still need a good pen to hand. And whether it's simply to scrawl a note while you're on a Zoom call or to spend some time hand-writing a letter to a loved one, a good pen can make a real difference.
In fact, as I use pens much less these days, I've found I much prefer having one or two particularly nice ones on my desk rather than a whole stack of cheap biros. There's something still particularly satisfying about sitting down with a beautiful, well-made pen and feeling inspired to make your mark on a fresh piece of paper.
Here then are my favorite rollerball and ballpoint pens for beautiful handwriting.
This pen is hand-milled from solid brass in the UK which gives it a stunning, industrial aesthetic that's unlike any other pen I've used. It's minimalist in its design, with the body being one cigar-like piece, with just the twisting bit at the top poking out. The raw brass finish will age over time too, giving each pen a distinct patina that will be uniquely yours, so don't worry about knocking it about -- it'll all just add to this pen's charm as it ages.
Being made from brass it's got a hefty weight to it, weighing almost double that of the Fisher AG7 pen seen below. Whether you prefer a heavier or lighter pen is a matter of personal taste, but I found it to be extremely comfortable to hold and write with and loved having that real sense of heft and sturdiness in my hand.
Ajoto's own rollerball refills offer a smooth and comfortable writing experience, but you can find compatible alternatives from other brands (including Grovemade, seen further down this list) if you want to switch things up.
At £150 ($183) it's not exactly cheap, but this pen is stunning, it's made by hand and, with care, will last you a lifetime.
Fisher proudly boasts that the AG7 was the original pen used on the Apollo 7 mission and has been used on all manned space flights since. A big reason for this use is the ink cartridge, which is pressurized allowing it to write at any angle, upside down or even in zero gravity.
But even if you're not heading into a zero gravity environment any time soon, the AG7 is still a superb pen to write with. It's comfortable to hold and whatever Fisher has done with that ink refill results in a very smooth writing experience that allows the pen to glide over the paper with almost zero resistance.
It's made in the US and has a classic and professional look to it, with a very satisfying click top and side-button release mechanism which I happily sit and play with for minutes on end while I try and remember what on Earth (Earth, get it?) it was that I was going to write down.
At only 3.75 inches when closed, Fisher's Bullet pen is a great option if you're looking for a pen that can sit unnoticed in your jacket pocket. There's no click or twist mechanism here; simply take off the cap and place it over the end and it becomes a more regular-sized pen at 5.25-inches.
With the same pressurized ink cartridge as the AG7 Space pen, the Bullet provides a delightfully smooth writing experience, although I don't find it quite as comfortable to hold as its sibling. As a result, I think this pen is best suited for quick notes on the move as its size means you never need to leave it behind.
It's made in the US and Fisher offers it in a dazzling array of colors, finishes and different special editions, including astronaut signature models or art nouveau patterns etched onto the barrel.
At £440 ($575), the Leman by Caran d'Ache is the most expensive pen on this list by some margin, but it's a beautiful writing instrument that's worthy of a place on your desk. It's made by hand in Switzerland with silver-plated metals and a beautiful matte black finish that makes it stunning to look at and almost begs you to pick it up to write with.
It's got quite a chunky body which I loved as I found it exceptionally comfortable to hold and write with for extended periods, despite having relatively small hands for a 6 foot 2 man (my wife calls them "dainty"). The rollerball ink cartridge allows for lusciously smooth writing, with the lid gently but securely screwing back into place when you're done.
Its price means that this pen will only be of interest to those looking for a real statement item for their writing, and Caran d'Ache is well known in the luxury market for its pens, many of which cost several thousand dollars. The Leman then can be seen as an approachable entrance to the high-rolling luxury pen market and its stunning build quality and stellar writing makes it well worth considering.
If you want the luxury Caran d'Ache name on your desk, but the Leman is a bit of a stretch of your budget, then the 849 roller pen's £53 ($51.75) asking price is the way to go. Bearing the brand name, subtly-written beneath the clip, the hexagonal shape of the pen is comfortable to hold while its rollerball nib provides a decent writing flow.
Its light weight gives it a cheaper feel than the Leman (which it is, significantly) but the clicky top is satisfying to play with and I expect will put up with a good few years of scrawled notes.
It comes in a range of colors, but I found the pure white version to stand out best. Don't want a rollerball? The 849 body can be had with a ballpoint cartridge, as a fountain pen or even as a mechanical pencil.
Parker's Jotter line of pens have been absolute classics since their launch in 1954. The pens have remained pretty much unchanged since then, because why mess with a good thing? The Jotter is comfortable to hold with a clicky top so satisfying it even became a plot point as a weaponized version in the James Bond film Goldeneye.
More recently the company launched a larger version, called the Jotter XL, which has a longer and fatter body. I found this to be more comfortable to hold and write with for longer periods than the standard model, so is worth looking into if you prefer a larger pen.
Parker's Jotter ballpoint cartridge provides a nice writing flow and the design of the refills has been copied by many companies since, so finding refills is no trouble. With a price around the $13 mark, the Jotter is a very affordable way of upgrading your writing from cheap biros and I expect it will remain a classic for many years to come.
Each Grovemade pen is machined by hand in Vancouver, WA and the attention to detail shows. The triangular body looks beautiful while the gentle twist action of the top has just the right amount of 'snap' to it to make it nice enough to want to sit and twist it back and forth for longer than is strictly necessary.
It's milled from solid aluminum which means it's naturally quite light in weight, so it'll suit those of you who prefer something less bulky when writing. The matte black of my test model looks extremely slick on my desk but wouldn't look out of place being pulled out of a fancy bag, a well-tailored suit or a stylish photography bag, as you rush to make a note of a good photo spot. So far that matte coating has put up with all attempts to scratch it and I expect it'll keep on looking good for some time.
Grovemade also produces a very attractive stand for the pen that's made from matching aluminum with a wood insert. It's got a hefty weight so it won't move around on your desk too much and allows the pen to stand upright so it's always within grabbing reach when inspiration strikes. If you'll mostly be using the pen at home it's well worth considering.