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The Great Pencil Debate

The Great Pencil Debate

Three writing implementsIt has come to my attention that a schism has once again split high schoolers.  The topic, like in any great schism, is profound and difficult to understand.  However, I can attempt to sum it up in four words: mechanical pencils, wood pencils.

Many of you may not know what one of those types of pencils is, so let me explain it.  A wood pencil is a round, column shaped object used for writing, with a stick of graphite in the middle and a pre-hardened useless eraser on the end (for convenience).  I’m sure you know what a mechanical pencil is.  If not, you need to understand that it is different from a regular wood pencil.  There are many fierce debates on which type of pencil is better, similar to the debates on whether or not school food is worse or better for you than what you’ll find in a freezer aisle.  Here’s the bulk of each side’s arguments:

The Regular Wood Pencil

It’s a classic, which is great; however, this means that it spends a lot of time marketing a 21st century image (Pre-sharpened! Durable! Versatile! Triangular! Erasable! Writes!).  Its other image is of a strength tester, so people are always breaking it with their head, hands, or nose (I wouldn’t recommend this).  Therefore, I feel the marketing should be more along the lines of “Has a cousin in the Mob!” or “Will prosecute injury claims!”

One of the drawbacks to the wooden pencil is that it needs to be sharpened.  Carrying around a sharp metal blade and leaving piles of kindling behind can solve this, but it can be a pain to sharpen.  The electric sharpener was invented for this reason, but those usually sound like someone is torturing their pencil with a blender, leading to negative public image.  Also, the lead breaks at the most inconvenient times-just when you need it most.  When you are taking a test, for instance, or when you just need to finish the unibrow of some magazine model.

There are positives as well, though.  One of these is the fact that with a wooden pencil, it’s obvious it’s a pencil.  It doesn’t look as if you are carrying around some sort of blowgun, per say, although a blowgun is very handy when taking notes (usually it helps persuade the rest of the class that they should wait for you to finish before moving on).

Another positive is the fact that it is made of wood.  Not only does this mean you are allowed to take it on an airplane, but that it leads to an increase in de-forestation.  While that is generally bad, I figure that with no trees, there can’t be tree-huggers (unless they wanted to hug a pencil.  You know, “Pre-Sharpened! Extra Huggable!”).

The Mechanical Pencil

This is widely accepted as the fancier pencil.  In fact, it can be disguised as just about anything, from a pen to a piece of spaghetti (not to say that this exists, just saying that this is possible.  The reason it doesn’t exist yet is because you readers aren’t putting out enough of a market demand for spaghetti-looking writing implements.  Work on that, please.  Or you could simply start writing with spaghetti and marinara sauce, and I’m sure it will then become a mechanical pencil; they even have mechanical pencils that look like, you guessed it, regular wooden pencils, all because people liked the look).

The trade-off, though, is the difficulty level.  While it has been widely accepted that even pre-schoolers have the motor control to use a sharp blade and manually carve their pencils, many people can’t seem to understand how to operate a mechanical pencil.  It is these people whom I’d recommend choose spaghetti instead, to fairly represent their intelligence among the general population.

Mechanical pencils are reusable, though, using graphite sticks that can be replaced.  This is a positive for the environment (unless the manufacture of these tiny, less-than-an-ounce graphite refills causes massive pollution due to transportation and packaging) and for people who are always losing their pencils.  This means that even if you lose your pencil, you can still try to write with a graphite stick with the diameter of an anorexic earthworm.

Lastly, these types of pencils usually come with a clip, just like a pen.  This way, the 6% of the population that still actually uses those pockets on t-shirts for writing implements (and not, say, for small mammals like the rest of the population) can carry around both pens and pencils instead of just pens.

Both pencils have arguments for and against them, so it can be difficult to come to a decision.  I’d recommend throwing darts at the pencil aisle of a store and seeing which packages get stuck with a dart.  Then I’d choose the packages that weren’t hit with a dart, because nobody wants “Holey!” pencils.

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  1. Also, mechanical pencils make the most awful noise when they are being used… just thought i would add that to the positives of good old wooden pencils…

  2. That's a good point, Christiane. I forgot to include that. Thanks for the feedback.

    - Phil

  3. I like both, but woodies are better for me. I hate the way some people think that mechanicals are better, only because they don’t need to get sharpened. I mean, you need spare lead! Otherwise its a plastic piece of crap with an eraser…

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