In the past I have blogged about my joy of journaling in a Moleskine, and last week I shared how I'm using the ESV Journaling Bible. In both books I make the vast majority of my notes in pencil, not pen. People are often surprised that I favor a pencil, and ask if I'm afraid the writing will fade. The short answer is, No. Pencil doesn't fade.
Why I Favor the Pencil
When I say "pencil," I'm referring to a mechanical pencil (typically this one). I use them because I like how they write. It's pretty subjective. Writing with a pencil just feels better to me, and I like the options of using it in different ways. Additionally, I make mistakes and like to erase them.
Pencil Doesn't Fade
A cursory search on the internet shows most people stating as fact, "Writing in pencil will fade over time." Rather than trust the opinion of some random dude on Yahoo Answers who hasn't even read an article on the subject, I thought I would ask some people who could give me better direction. So I contacted the National Archives. They were happy to answer my questions quickly and provide helpful references. After a few email exchanges with people who spend their time in historic documents, here is the bottom line for those wondering if writing in pencil will fade.
Graphite pencil is a very stable material. It does not fade in light. It does not bleed in water unless other dyes were added.
Turns out we've been using graphite for drawing and writing since the 17th century. I asked my new friends at the Archives if they could point out any old, well known documents that were written in pencil. One potential find is the second page of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (take a peek here) available online on the Library of Congress' web site. It appears to have been written in pencil. You do not need to worry about the words you write in your journal fading away over the years if you use a pencil.
Pencil Does Smear
This doesn't make pencil the best option for everything or everyone. Pencil can smear with your finger, so if you aren't careful you can have a problem. This is actually my only concern in writing in the ESV Journaling Bible; my thumbs want to rest on the pages and turn them where I have written. I have been forcing myself to go about it differently to avoid smearing what I have written. Obviously pencil is not as fragile as chalk on a chalkboard, but be aware.
For the nerds out there who want to go deeper into the pencil, check out The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, by Henry Petroski.