Left-Handed Handwriting: Exploring Fountain Pens

Left-handed people, which account for roughly 10% of the world’s population, face unique challenges when it comes to handwriting. The most common struggle is smudging, as lefties drag their hand across the page as they write from left to right. This issue is exacerbated by fountain pens, whose wet ink, lack of grip section to angle the nib away from the hand, and oftentimes flexible nibs can lead to more smearing and messier writing. Even with ballpoint pens, left-handers often have to uncomfortably contort their wrist to avoid smudging. Fountain pens therefore require some adaptation to work ergonomically for left-handed writers. This article will explore the difficulties lefties face with fountain pens in particular, and provide tips to optimize the writing experience.

The Struggles of Left-Handed Writing

Left-handed writers face some unique challenges that can make handwriting more difficult. Three of the biggest issues lefty writers contend with are smearing ink, smudged writing, and hand cramps.

One of the most frustrating problems for lefties is smearing ink across the page as their hand drags over freshly written words (Source). Unlike right-handed writers who pull their hand away from the newly written text, lefties continue moving their hand through the ink, often leaving illegible smears behind. This issue is exacerbated when using fountain pens, as their wet nibs deposit more ink onto the page.

Similarly, left-handed writers often deal with smudged writing as their hand moves across the page. The side of their palm and pinky finger can easily pick up ink or graphite as they write, resulting in messy, blurred words. This unintended smudging makes staying neat and legible a constant battle.

Lastly, the position and motion of writing left-handed can strain the hand and cause cramps more easily. The hooked writing position many lefties use to see around their hand puts more tension on the muscles and tendons. Gripping the pen tightly to control it while pushing versus pulling can also tire the hand faster. Lefties may experience sore hands and fingers, particularly when writing longer texts (Source).

Why Fountain Pens Exaggerate Those Struggles

Fountain pens exacerbate many of the challenges left-handed writers face when using other writing instruments. The wetness of fountain pen ink coupled with the angled tips of most nibs make for a frustrating combination for left-handed writers.

Lefties have to contend with ink that takes longer to dry when using fountain pens. Unlike ballpoint pens, fountain pen ink remains wet on the page for several seconds after writing. This makes smearing and smudging much more likely as the side of the hand glides over freshly written words (Pen Shop, 2022). Left-handed writers need to consciously hold their hand above the writing line or pause periodically to allow ink to dry to avoid this issue.

The angled tip of most fountain pen nibs also tends to catch on paper when pulled from left to right, which is the natural direction for left-handed writers. This causes skips and uneven ink flow. Nibs designed for right-handers flex properly when pulled from right to left, making writing much smoother. Lefties need to find nibs designed specifically for left-handed writing to achieve optimal performance (Pen Heaven, 2022).

Tips for Lefties Using Fountain Pens

When using a fountain pen, left-handed writers need to adjust their grip, angle, and choice of ink to accommodate their writing style. Fountain pen nibs are designed for people who write with their right hand by pushing the pen across the page. Lefties, however, need to pull the pen in order for the nib to function properly.

To help left-handed fountain pen users, here are some useful tips:

  • Use quick-drying ink – wet inks like those from Noodler’s take longer to dry, risking more smudging. Try fast-drying inks like those from Pelikan, which dry on contact with the page. Source
  • Adjust your pen grip so you are pulling the pen rather than pushing. Hold the pen between your thumb and index finger closer to the nib for more control.
  • Angle the paper so you are writing “downhill” – tipping the page clockwise can make writing easier. Place paper to the left rather than center for better visibility.
  • Consider investing in a left-handed nib, which has a slightly different tipping material and curvature designed specifically for lefties.

With some adjustments to grip, angle, and ink, lefties can get the most out of their fountain pens. The key is making small tweaks to accommodate the left-handed writing style.

Recommended Nibs and Inks

Left-handed writers will benefit from using wider nibs to prevent their hand from smudging what they just wrote (Source). Wider nibs put down a thinner line and allow ink to dry faster before the side of your hand passes over it. Popular options include stubs, italics, and bold nibs.

When it comes to ink, drier inks are preferable as they don’t smear as easily. Some good options include Noodler’s Bernanke series, Pelikan 4001, and Lamy inks. It’s best to avoid very wet, lubricated inks like those from the Iroshizuku line.

Testing different nib widths and ink brands will help you find the best pairing that allows you to write smoothly without smudging. Once you discover the right nib and ink combination, writing left-handed with a fountain pen becomes much more enjoyable.

Writing Position and Paper Orientation

Two key elements for left-handed writers using fountain pens are paper orientation and writing position. Lefties should position the paper to the left side of their body and tilt it clockwise at an angle so their writing hand moves from left to right across and down the page (1). This helps avoid smudging ink since the hand doesn’t drag across fresh writing. Tilting the paper also straightens the wrist, allowing a more natural writing flow.

Lefties should also adopt an underwriting position, with the hand below the writing line, rather than overwriting above it. This prevents the hand from obscuring the line being written. Underwriting helps achieve the proper writing angle for smooth ink flow and avoids excessive bending of the wrist (2).

With the right paper orientation and underwriting position, lefties can achieve excellent fountain pen control and legibility.


(1) https://woodfountainpens.com/blogs/the-fountain-pen-journal/using-fountain-pen-left-handed

(2) https://www.penshop.co.uk/blog/tips-for-left-handed-writers

Pens Designed for Left-Handers

Many fountain pen manufacturers have designed pens specifically for left-handed writers. These pens often feature curved grips and ink flow regulators to help lefties write more comfortably without smudging.

The Lamy Safari fountain pen is a popular starter pen for left-handers. It has a contoured grip and smooth plastic barrel to promote a tripod grip. Lamy nibs also put down a thinner ink line that dries quicker (https://www.gouletpens.com/blogs/fountain-pen-blog/fountain-pens-for-lefties).

Pelikan fountain pens are another good option, as their nibs can be ground to produce thinner downstrokes. The Pelikan Twist is designed for students and features an ink flow regulator to prevent blobs and smudging (https://www.penheaven.com/pens-by-feature/left-handers).

The Visconti Homo Sapiens Dark Age fountain pen has a hook-shaped clip well-suited for a left-handed grip. Its lava rock material quickly absorbs excess ink into the barrel to avoid smearing. It can be filled with fast drying inks like Noodler’s Bernanke series for optimal left-handed writing.

Exercises and Techniques

To improve left-handed fountain pen writing, targeted exercises and techniques can help build strength, flexibility, and muscle memory. Some recommended exercises include:

Wrist and finger stretches – Stretching the wrist, hand, and finger muscles before writing can help prepare them and prevent cramps. Try gently bending the wrist up and down, rolling the wrists in circles, stretching fingers wide apart then closing together, and other simple range of motion exercises.

Targeted writing practice – Doing line exercises, writing the same letter or word repeatedly, and practicing tricky letter combinations like “th” specifically targets problem areas for lefties. Go slow and focus on good posture and technique during these drills. Start with just a few minutes a day. The repetition builds neuropathways to make the movements more natural (Source).

Writing on a slant board – Propping a notebook on a slanted surface around 30-40 degrees reduces strain on the wrist and improves wrist position. DIY options like placing a book under the writing surface can work. Specialized slant boards designed for left-handed writing are also available.

With dedicated practice, lefties can train their hands to write smoothly and legibly with fountain pens. Having patience, trying different grips, using guide sheets, and doing stretches prevents bad habits from forming when getting started. Over time, the proper techniques become second nature.

Making Your Own Adjustments

Many left-handed writers find that making small adjustments to their fountain pens can greatly improve the writing experience. Two common adjustments involve nib grinding and adding grip pads.

Nib grinding involves smoothing or reshaping the nib tip to change ink flow and feel. A skilled nibmeister can grind a nib to be more comfortable for left-handed writing. Common grinds like adding more flex or reducing tipping material can make it easier for lefties to control line width and shading.

According to The Pen Shop, having a nib ground specifically for left-handed writing “will dramatically improve your fountain pen experience as a lefty.” They recommend looking for nibmeisters who specialize in left-handed grinds (Pen Shop).

Adding grip pads is another easy DIY solution. Small adhesive rubber pads added to the grip section can prevent the pen from slipping downward in the hand. This helps maintain proper writing position for lefties. Companies like Lamy sell official grip pads, but many stationery stores carry inexpensive generic versions.

With some simple adjustments like these, lefties can customize any fountain pen to work better for their unique needs and writing style.


In summary, left-handed writers face unique challenges when using fountain pens, from smudged ink to hand cramps. With some small adjustments, however, lefties can successfully write with fountain pens.

The most important tips to remember are to use quick-drying ink, position your hand below the writing line, and experiment with writing angle and nib sizes until you find a comfortable fit. Using paper with thicker fibers can also help prevent smudging and bleed-through. Don’t forget to take regular breaks to stretch your hand and fingers.

While fountain pens may require more mindfulness for left-handers, the enjoyable writing experience and personalized options make it worth the effort. With practice and persistence, lefties can make fountain pens work for their unique needs.

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