If the “Number 2” pencil is the most popular and standard of all pencils, why is it still number two?
“Number Two” or “No. 2” doesn’t mean the pencil is in second place, nor does it denote it’s worth, contrary to what you thought in first grade – and might still believe. Actually, No. 2 identifies the pencil’s place on the HB graphite grading scale, the gage measuring the hardness of a writing/drawing utensil’s graphite core.
The higher the number, the harder the core which marks lighter on paper. The inverse is also true; the lower the number, the softer the core. Combined with the user’s pressure, softer cores leave darker marks on paper.
To fill out tests, specifically scantrons, it is advised to use the No. 2 pencil – not because it was demoted from first place, but because it is least likely to smear or wear.