We know that Office Supplies Talk is not the first site you'll check for advice on filling out your NCAA tournament bracket this year. Except for picking all four Final Four teams in 2009 (and still losing the office pool to our warehouse manager), my record has been less than outstanding. But although we can't help you decide who will win that crucial Vanderbilt-Richmond game, we can still help you fill out your bracket by answering the most important question: which pen or pencil should you use?
Like many people, I fill out about a dozen brackets while trying to determine which one is worth entering in the office pool. This year, I tested several different writing instruments to find one ideal for picking winners. As the choice between pencil or pen is a personal decision, I tried a good sample of both.
Unfortunately, my pencil test was somewhat flawed as some of my stock are 0.7mm and some are 0.5mm. Some of the slots have very limited space, so 0.5mm is preferred. Other criteria included how well the lead disperses, the eraser erases and your hand holds up. Hand cramping must be avoided to have a deep tournament run. Otherwise you may pick BYU over Florida just because it has fewer letters.
Despite only having a 0.7mm on hand, Pentel's Twist-Erase CLICK impressed me the most. It writes well, features a latex grip for comfort and lead advances with a side click instead of through the eraser. The eraser is sturdy, effective and can be replenished with a twist at the top. Best of all, it is available in a 0.5mm to make sure you can fit "Connecticut" in that little box. Honorable mention goes to the Uni-Ball Kuru Toga, which has strong, fine lead and writes smoothly. As mentioned before, it does have a small eraser with a troublesome cap, so the indecisive should be cautious. It is, however, lighter than the Twist-Erase, so consider it if you fill out several brackets in pencil.
For pens, the important factors were smoothness, legibility in small spaces, lack of smearing, weight and strength of schedule. While I don't normally prefer them in everyday writing, needle point pens became the clear choice for all bracketing needs. The needle point allowed detailed writing in tight spaces with no noticeable smearing. None stood out more than Pilot's Precise V5 RT, which is light and keeps your hand fresh for several brackets. Best of all, it is available with an extra fine point. While a little heavier, Pentel's EnerGel Needle Tip is worth a flier as well.
If you must know who I have winning the actual tournament, mark me down for Kansas.