How Many Words Are Pens Good For? 5 Types Explained

Pens, or the concept of utilizing a writing device, have been around for roughly 5,000 years; a lot has changed since the times of the Ancient Egyptians who would use reed straws and ink created from various organic materials. When it comes to choosing your pen of choice, there are many factors to consider, and one of those is how many words one will get out of the pen.

On average, pens write up to 45,000 words, translating to roughly 100 A4 pages with 450 – 500 words per page. Fountain pens tend to yield the lowest word count and need to be refilled often, while ballpoints will average 50,000, with the Seltzer 7 Year Pen potentially offering thousands more.

Nowadays, in America alone, approximately two billion pens are manufactured each year, and there are assumed to be over 20,000 different pens in the world. Having this array of options to choose from can be exciting or even daunting at times, so let us examine 5 types of pens and discover what we can get from them.

How Many Words Can You Write With Most Pens?

The agreed-upon average for pens is to be able to write up to 45,000 words which translates to roughly 100 A4 pages with 450 words per page. Obviously, people write in different sizes, so these figures may vary, and there is also the fact that not all pens will give you such a robust output.

As mentioned, the earliest records state that pens date back to roughly 3,000 B.C., and the Egyptians were the most prominent of scribes at the time, making pens from wood and bamboo straws. The ink they used was made from either soot or ochre mixed with beeswax.  

Moving swiftly along, we reach the year 700 A.D., and the use of quill pens extended until about the 1700s. Common people could not afford or were unable to find the more ideal swan feathers, so they would make do with goose feathers. There was also the use of crows feathers, especially for finer lines.

The first time the pen was patented was in 1888, by a man named John Loud; however, his idea did not succeed. It was only by the time of Laszlo Biro that the notion of the modern pen was taken more seriously, and he is credited for what we now know as the ballpoint pen. Some of the most common pens of today are the fountain, gel, brush, and marker pens.

What Is A Ballpoint Pen?

Ballpoint pens are among the most well-known pens on the market, and there is good reason for this. Since way back in World War II, pilots would use these pens as they did not leak while flying at high altitudes.

The ink in ballpoints is also oil-based, and it dries rapidly. So for left-handed people, this is an ideal option as it is less likely to smudge, especially when compared to other options out there. The ink in ballpoints is also thicker than that of some other pens, and therefore it lasts longer.

The ink is dispensed by utilizing a small sphere that sits at the pen’s tip. This ball rolls around as you write, and thankfully it is kept in place by a socket. Half of the ball is immersed in the ink while the other transfers it onto the paper.

The ink, not only thicker than that of other pens, is also dispensed in smaller quantities, which adds to it lasting longer. With that and the quick-drying effects, this makes for a prime choice as they are reliable and vary immensely in price.

One downside to the ballpoint is that one must apply greater pressure when writing as the thicker ink is prone to clumping together; therefore, this may not be the best option for you if you intend to do a vast amount of writing. This may seem contradictory to their longevity, but rather they should be seen as convenient tools for daily use and not, say, essay writing.

How Many Words And Pages A Ballpoint Pen Can Write

The average ballpoint will likely write between 328 yards (300 meters). This translates to 100 legal-size pages or 50,000 words, but it will depend on how large the writer writes. Some claim, though, that certain ballpoint pens can last as much as 300 legal-size pages.

Additionally, although these are the averages, there are some serious outliers; for instance, the Bic Cristal Ballpoint Pen, which claims to write up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers). And it’s not only for this pen that they boast; they claim that the vast majority of their pens will outlast their competitors.

However, it is left in the dirt by the Seltzer 7 Year Pen, which is made by a company that sought to find a solution to the high number of disposable pens that end up in landfills each year. So they created a pen that is expected to have a writing length of between 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) and 3 miles (5 kilometers). This would mean (if it is indeed the case) potentially up to 800,000 words.

What Is A Rollerball Pen?

Rollerball pens are similar to ballpoints, especially in design. However, they will typically always have a cap as their water-based ink is prone to drying out at times. There are some greater benefits worth noting, and the first is that they offer a smoother and more comfortable writing experience, and one does not have to apply as much pressure when using one.

While other pens are somewhat limited in their color options, rollerballs stand out as they have a great variety of colors. If you are writing for extensive periods at any given time, the rollerball is certainly recommended; however, there is a catch. You will likely need to replace the pen or refill it (which was not always possible) more frequently than, say, the ballpoint pen.

This is because the ink is water-based and not as thick, thus resulting in an ease of flow from the tip. Additionally, the ink takes a lengthier time to dry properly, and on thin paper, it is possible to see the writing from the reverse side. A rollerball may not be the best choice if you are a left-handed individual, as smudging is far more likely.

For others, though, the rollerball was primarily designed to merge the convenience of ballpoint pens and portray the look of that written with a fountain pen.

How Many Words And Pages A Rollerball Pen Can Write

When it comes to the lifespan of a rollerball, it is significantly lower than that of a ballpoint, and on average, either a disposable or refillable one will last you for approximately 30 legal-size pages, which translates to 15,000 words. This is still a sufficient amount; however, you may be replacing your pens or ink cartridges more regularly if you do excessive writing.

As mentioned, rollerballs are also more prone to “bleeding” or being visible (sometimes to a greater degree than others) from the reverse side of a page. Also, they are prone to clogging at times, and if this occurs, it usually results in having to replace the cartridge or replacing the pen. And they do have a higher risk of drying out, which can be highly annoying.

So it is always good to recap the pen(s) when not in use. It is also worth noting that these sorts of pens, like fountain pens, are prone to leaking (especially if the cap is removed) when kept in a breast pocket or briefcase, for example. Higher temperatures also seem to play a factor in this occurring.

What Is A Gel Pen?

Just like the rollerball shares common components with the ballpoint pen, the gel pen does too; it combines characteristics of both of these types of pens. It functions similarly to the ballpoint in that it dispenses the ink via the minute rolling ball found in the pen’s tip. The gel pen uses a water-based gel ink, unlike the ballpoint, but similarly to the rollerball.

There is, at times, confusion regarding the ink used in the gel pen, as it is not of the same robust thickness of the ballpoint, which tends to be more of a “paste” than liquid, but simultaneously it is not quite as thin as what you will find with rollerballs. Therefore, the best way to understand it is that gel pen ink is a happy medium between the two other pens.

This type of pen is a better option, especially for left-handed people, as compared to the rollerball, as it is less inclined to smudge, but the ink still flows more freely than that from a ballpoint. These pens also use a pigment instead of the regular dyes found in others. The pens also offer a vast range of color options, s you are spoilt for choice here.

How Many Words And Pages A Gel Pen Can Write

These pens have a wonderfully elegant and smooth feel, and the writing experience is to be commended for most products on the market. Surprisingly, it is reported that these pens can fill 35 – 40 legal-size pages. In terms of the word count, you will likely reach between 17,500 and 20,000.

And this is likely owed to the ink being less “fluid” than that found in rollerballs. However, we note the disparity between the gel and ballpoint pen, as this ink is not nearly as thick. It is imperative to note, though, that certain versions of this pen have remarkably small ink reservoirs, which means they will run out much quicker.

Using your gel pen for general writing or perhaps even sketching will last longer than, say, using it to shade or color images. Another factor is that if the point size is larger, the ink will flow more rapidly; however, the vast majority of gel pens have small nibs.

Like rollerballs, gel pens are sensitive to temperature, and instead of only leaking in hot temperatures, they may stop working in that the ink ceases to flow any longer. Do not throw it away just yet, though, and rather place it in your refrigerator for a short time and test it out again.

What Is A Fountain Pen?

The fountain pen is often associated with high-profile business people and those who consider themselves pen enthusiasts; however, these pens have grown in popularity once more and for various reasons.

This pen also uses water-based liquid, and it is transferred onto the paper via the nib, a flat metallic piece that bends inwards, at the tip of the pen, as opposed to the ball that many other types of pens use. The ink is released by applying pressure to the page, and this transferal is aided by gravity that allows the ink to flow from the reservoir and is then fed out.

Although usually refillable, Fountain pens do, in fact, come in disposable forms. However, this does not mean that the entire pen is thrown away; rather, the pens come equipped with disposable ink cartridges.

Those which are refillable will typically have a mechanism that allows them to draw ink up into the reservoir (through the nib). Thus, you will need to purchase ink pots to refill them instead of cartridges.

How Many Words And Pages A Fountain Pen Can Write

Although more elegant than some other pens and are generally rather aesthetically pleasing, fountain pens do require the ink to be refilled rather often or the cartridge replaced. On average, you will be able to write between 7 – 10 legal-size pages, with some reportedly reaching 20 pages. This means you will have written as little as 3,500 words and potentially up to 10,000.

Although they do require you to refill them or replace the cartridges more often, for the most part, these expenses (especially for the refillable one) are less than that of many other types of pens. A typical 12 oz. (350ml) bottle should last one for up to an entire year (depending on the amount of writing you do).

You will, therefore, most likely be refilling it anywhere between once a week or every couple of months. However, unlike many other pens, refillable fountain pens must be well maintained and cleaned at least once a month. The old ink should be washed out, the pen allowed to dry, and then you’ll be set to get back to writing.

What Are Felt Tip Pens?

Felt tip pens are rather varied, go by various names, and include even the likes of highlighters, which use the same design style as the “pens”. These pens have porous tips made from various fibrous materials, and they are constantly fed by the reservoir, which keeps them wet with ink.

As you write with one of these, the ink leaves the tip, is transferred to the paper (or another surface in some cases), and is then replenished by the reservoir. The reservoir in the case of these pens is generally made of the same porous material as the tip, and gravity aids in its supplying the tip with new ink.

Although how the ink is transferred from the reservoir to the tip is similar to the fountain pen, many felt tips can write on impermeable surfaces that do not absorb the ink as paper does. You will use fine tips for paper, but for coloring and drawing, you’ll find them to be medium-sized, and “markers” are typically the largest.

How Many Words And Pages Felt Tip Pens Can Write

Like fountain pens, unfortunately, felt tip pens do not tend to give you extensive amounts of output; for your finer tipped pens used on paper, you are likely to reach a total of 30 pages or 15,000 words.

Another downside to this form of a pen is that due to the nature of the tips and the material they are produced from, it may well end up (especially if you are someone who applies excessive pressure while writing) that the tip will wear down or become frayed before the ink runs out.

If your felt tip does run out of ink, in most cases, you will, unfortunately, find that it is disposable and cannot be refilled; however, there are some which are “refillable”, whereby you can remove the bottom of the pen, and inside the body of the pen you will find a piece of a foam-like material, which you can then add ink to by administering ink using a squeeze dropper.


There are certainly different life spans for these various types of pens, and this is something you will need to consider when purchasing pens (along with things like your intended purpose for the pen). Overall though, we are looking at a word count range of between 10,000 and 50,000. There are extreme outliers, though, but they are highly irregular and rare.  

Similar Posts