Have you ever been tearing through notes during a lecture only to be stifled by the muscles in your hand turning to stone? If you write with a pencil in standard script and grip as hard as I do, you probably have. Many times.

The usual alternative for writing in graphite and clay is to use a pen. These can range from standard blue or black ballpoints all the way to purple Pilots. Pens glide across paper much more easily than pencils do, so there’s less stress on your hands. If you’re using this method for taking notes, you’re already one comfort point ahead of everyone else.

I don’t know the statistics, but I’m willing to bet that most college students of today don’t write in cursive. Some may have even forgotten their squiggly characters, or perhaps they were never taught well to begin with. Printed handwriting is second-nature to the average student. Even if it’s lacking in elegance, usually, it’s easy to employ and it’s easy to read, at least for you. Unless your handwriting is so bad that you have trouble reading it yourself, in which case, cursive may or may not be a great improvement for your future comfort.

Writing in cursive with ink combines these two ideals, and it’s a great choice, but if you’d really like to save your hand some pain, look no further than the humble fountain pen. If you’re willing to drop the dough, and possibly the time, you can certainly look toward a fantastic fountain pen instead. The price can get pretty high depending upon what you’re looking for. If you’re enthralled by the idea of a silver-plated pen, for instance, more power to you. That would probably be awesome. For most college students, the choice of fountain pens will be more selective. Durability and cost are prime factors. I’m no expert of fountain pens by any means, but I like the pen I use quite a lot, even if I only use it during the school year when I’m writing large amounts by hand. My pen is a Lamy Safari with a B nib. You can get one in a variety of colors, but mine is black. I also have a fountain pen converter that allows my pen to use ink from a bottle rather than ink from cartridges. You can find these products here and here.

If you’re going to use a fountain pen, you’re going to need ink as well. This is where the big fun comes in, even if you’re on a budget. If you don’t want to mess around with bottled ink, you can use ink cartridges and skip the converter, but the cost is much greater than that to be found from buying your ink in bulk. “Bulk” is deceptive here, as the actual amount of space taken up by your bottle of ink will be quite small. I bought a three-ounce bottle of ink two years ago, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. You may write a good deal more than I have, but you’ll still take a long time to get through one bottle. Just don’t spill it. Please. I have this ink. The price has actually gone down a bit since I bought my bottle in August of 2015, though the newer bottles might be plastic rather than glass. Supposedly, the company’s bottle producers moved their factory out of the U.S., so they cut ties with them and switched to plastic. That might’ve changed since then, or it might’ve been false information to begin with. In any case, Noodler’s Ink seems to be pretty cool, and I love my General of the Armies color. If you look around, you can find fountain pen ink in a vast array of colors. You can also find it with different properties such as extra durability to cold or to bleaching agents. No matter what you choose, the only large downside is the fact that you’ll be stuck with your ink for a long time. You could always buy another bottle for $12.50 and pass your old one on to a friend.

For maximum note-taking comfort, I would suggest investing the time and money into writing in cursive with a fountain pen. It’ll take a day or two to get used to writing with a nib, even with the modern, easy-to-use nibs, but once you have it down, you’ll be flying. Cramped hand muscles are still a possibility, but it’ll take a lot more use and grip force to get there. The first time you run out of ink in the middle of a lecture, you’ll be disappointed in your writing utensil of choice for a few moments. When you feel the burn of a pencil or standard pen again, you’ll second-guess that disappointment, I think. Even if you have to learn cursive from scratch to use this method, I heartily recommend it. Your notes will look fantastic in no time. Your grades could look even better. Because more notes. And heck, writing with a super cool fountain pen could even marginally improve your self-esteem. Just don't smudge the ink you leave in the margins of your paper. It does take a second or two to dry.