How to Hold a Pencil

Four Methods:Short or Long Pencil ApproachesTripod HoldPracticing Good Pencil HoldingSpotting Unhelpful Pencil Grips

If you have never been taught how to hold a pencil correctly, it's possible that you're holding in such a way as to make drawing and writing more difficult than it needs to be. Or, perhaps you want to teach your child the right way to grip a pencil. Correct positioning of a pencil will ensure that both drawing and writing are easier, neater and more enjoyable activities.

Method 1
Short or Long Pencil Approaches

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    Start with a short pencil. This is an occupational therapy trick that prevents you or a child from using more fingers than are needed for a correct grasp of the pencil. It's recommended that if you're teaching a child, always use a short pencil.
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    Position the pencil accurately by using the "pinch and flip" method.[1] This works for long pencils if you'd rather start with a longer one.
    • Pinch the sharp end of the pencil.
    • Flip the pencil around. When it reaches the web space (the fold of skin between your thumb and index finger), allow the pencil end to rest there. You're now ready to try the tripod hold.

Method 2
Tripod Hold

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    Use your thumb, index finger and middle finger for this hold. No other fingers hold the pencil. Imagine pinching these three digits together, but not overly tightly, with the pencil in between.
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    Place the thumb pad to one side of the pencil. This side is the one closest to your body.
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    Place the index finger on top of the pencil. The tip of this finger should just rest on top of the pencil. Along with the thumb, this finger holds the pencil in place.
    • Avoid placing undue pressure on the pencil with this finger. This is a common mistake that results in uncomfortable and/or heavy writing. Too much pressure can eventually result in pain when holding the pencil.
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    Rest the pencil on the middle finger. The pencil should rest on the first joint of your middle finger. This finishes off the tripod positioning.

Method 3
Practicing Good Pencil Holding

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    Bend all five fingers slightly. Avoid making a fist––a small ball should be able to slide into the cupped hand shape. Otherwise, the grip will be too tight and restrictive.
    • One method suggests that the two fingers need to bend back toward your palm while the other fingers do the maneuvering work. For children, it can be helpful to give them a ball or similar item to hold in these two fingers while the other digits hold the pencil.
    • Another method is to have these fingers work as supports for the writing fingers––just be sure they're bent. It's a good idea to try both ways to find what works best for you. You may find that the positioning is impacted by whether you're holding the pencil for writing in either a slanted or a perpendicular way (see next).
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    Try writing on a horizontal surface (your desk, etc.). Write while holding the pencil slanted or perpendicular (exactly upright) to the table. See which approach best suits your writing needs.
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    Keep the underside of your thumb and your forearm aligned. If you find that your elbow tends to wing out, practice writing on a vertical surface, such as on a whiteboard or on paper on an easel. Writing vertically will automatically force your elbow, arm and writing hand into the correct alignment.

Method 4
Spotting Unhelpful Pencil Grips

Not all pencil grips are useful for effective writing, and some can even bring about pain. Here are some signs of inaccurate grips to watch for and change quickly:

  • The index finger wraps over the thumb instead of sitting on the pencil
  • The index and middle fingers wrap around the thumb
  • The thumb is one side, the index and middle fingers are on the other side
  • The index, middle and ring fingers are holding the pencil one side, the thumb on the other side
  • The thumb wraps over the index finger
  • The whole hand is wrapped around the pencil, fist-like––the thumb is usually the on the opposite side holding it all up.


  • Check for tight grip; this can be a challenge to undo in a determined child but try to help the child by telling them they're doing a good job and that relaxing is a good idea for easier writing.
  • Changing a hold can take days or even weeks. It's important to persevere to ensure that the pencil holding method you're using is comfortable and effective.
  • Training tools exist to force the fingers into a tripod position when holding the pencil. These are small rubber/latex objects usually stocked by quality stationery stores.
  • Do your best to teach children the right way as early as possible; it's a lot easier than undoing the wrong way. Pencil grip is much harder to change after the age of 6.[2]


  • Incorrect pencil grip can contribute to reduced speed, legibility and even arthritic conditions later in life.[2]

Article Info

Categories: Writing Implements