Certain positions are taught in school for holding a pen (not typically a fountain pen or quill in modern times). A variety of grips/positions can be seen in online photos. For example, from Amazon:

enter image description here enter image description here

These two pictures show very different positions of holding a fountain pen.

Different grips will provide different control and comfort. This question focuses on just those two objectives. Ignore, for example, specialized grips that left-handed writers sometimes adapt with fountain pens to keep their hands out of the wet ink.

This question also focuses on just fountain pens, since pressure requirements are different from, say, ballpoint pens, pressure affects the ink line, and writing on fountain-pen-friendly paper often provides less feedback than most other types of pens.

Using joints and muscles in a natural way must also play a role. For example, one grip may not be familiar to the writer, but could be learned and is just as easy on the body as a more familiar grip. Another grip might make your hand tired or painful more quickly.

In the absence of injury, disease (like arthritis), or other abnormalities, human hands work pretty much the same (ignoring differences in hand size, finger length, and the like), so it seems logical that certain positions that optimize control and comfort should apply broadly to most writers engaged in normal penmanship (excluding specialized writing like calligraphy), and writing characters in the typical range of handwriting size.

  • Is there a grip/position for writing with a fountain pen that optimizes control and comfort, and is recognized as being superior to other positions for most users?

  • A poor position (e.g. comfortable but reduced control, or that leads to pain after prolonged use), may not be immediately obvious as poor. Low quality writing could be attributed to insufficient practice by a new user, or eventual pain might not be attributed to inadequacies of the grip. A new fountain pen user has no basis for comparison. If it is the case that different positions work better for different people, how do I judge whether the position I'm using is less than optimal?

  • 5
    There's no right or wrong. Hold it in any position that feels comfortable and provides control for writing. You probably wouldn't want to hold it by the nib because you'd get ink on your fingers. Try different positions and use what works for you. Everybody is different (which is why you can find pictures of people holding pens in different ways).
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 24, 2020 at 13:06
  • 4
    Careful with advertisments and commercial pictures. Most of them are stock images done by photographers and models who have no idea how a scene they recreate looks like in real life. There are whole websites dedicated to making fun of stock images of doctors with stethoscopes over their shoulders (although the kind of specialist depictured wouldn't even use a stethoscope), mechanics holding the wrong tools, musicians holding the instrument incorrectly and people awkwardly placing their hand on computer keyboards, looking uncomfortable but sporting the obligatory toothy smile.
    – Elmy
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 6:01
  • 1
    I am struggling with this question being closed as opinion-based. It is answerable in two ways (what is usually taught and what fits the natural pattern of a user’s hand and feels comfortable for a good while), which are both not individual opinions but rather objective, although there is a certain variance in how the final choice or habit may look for a certain user, the basic principle should be a pretty universal fit. The asker is putting the focus on the same things - customary approach and how to recognize that something is amiss.
    – Stephie
    Commented Aug 27, 2020 at 20:58
  • 1
    I'm with Stephie on this one. This is "opinion-based" in the sense that different people can have different opinions on what works best for them, and nobody can know what will work best for someone else. There are a number of equally correct answers for different people. However, everyone doesn't know that, and certain positions are taught and there are pictures of other positions. So this seems like a valid question, which can be factually answered by addressing that there are different positions that will work for different people and (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 0:28
  • 1
    it's a matter of preference and what works for you. If this had attracted people merely spouting their own preference, that would reinforce the idea that the question is opinion based. But it attracted several decent answers that address the question in a factual way, which supports the view that the question is answerable in a non-opinion-based way. I'm going to vote to reopen.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Aug 28, 2020 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


Holding a pen is to a large degree a matter of preference. However, the customary position would be neither of the two pictured and both can be tiring.

The first is very close to the nib and will easily get you smudged fingers if you aren’t careful and slip even a bit. A tight grip like that (notice the strongly curved fingers) usually means that the writer’s handwriting is comparatively small and most of the movement comes from the fingers.

The very stretched fingers combined with the grip far at the back of the pen will almost automatically lead to larger handwriting, because small movements are translated into bigger strokes. More of the pen’s movement will come from the wrist.

The customary grip position, that is for example taught to school kids, is easy to see when you look at fountain pens designed for them:

enter image description here


Notice the ridged “grip zone” for the index finger and the corresponding soft zone for the thumb.

If you want to find out what a good position for you and your hand could be, start with a very relaxed hand. You will notice that the fingers and thumb will almost automatically fall into something akin to a loose tripod grip when you place your hand sideways on a table or similar. Just slip the pen into position and you’re ready to get started. Minor adjustments will come naturally when you keep writing, but taking the natural position of your hand as baseline will be best to prevent fatigue and cramped fingers and thus give you the best handwriting and the best experience.


You should develop your own style of writing. The most important aspect, is that the hold must be comfortable, especially if you use the pen for long periods of time.

Other aspects to consider, less important: esthetics, quality of the result (i.e. the writing), the coolness factor, the formal-vs-informal setup when you will use it etc.

I used fountain pens for more than 20 years. I use them less now, since the computer is quite incompatible with them. I speak from my own experience, as well as the experience of my family and colleagues.

I guess that holding the pen from the "neck" will allow you better control, e.g. fast writing. Holding it from farther away from the nib would allow you to fuel your imagination and create fanciful text / drawings.

The size of whatever you write / paint also depends on the position of the hold.

  • Which part is called the neck? Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 6:34
  • I do not know if it is actually called "the neck". I see the nib as a head, so whatever is just below / above it, holding it, is the neck. Further from there is the body. I see no hands or legs :)
    – virolino
    Commented Aug 25, 2020 at 6:47

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