curiosity across disciplines


Monospace fonts are underrated for collaborative writing.

In case you're not familiar, monospace fonts, in contrast to proportional fonts, maintain equal spacing for all characters, from the dainty comma to the most voluptuous "W".

To fourth this wall: if you're reading this on the website, you're seeing a monospace font; if in your email inbox, a proportional font.

Fixed-width fonts got their debut with old-school typewriters, which made the invention possible (a typewriter doesn't have any internal feedback telling itself what key was pressed, so every character must have the same spacing).

And while there are many modern use cases for monospace fonts, from computer programming, to guitar tabs, to screenplays, most publications use proportional fonts because most people find these easier to read.

This creates a conundrum, which I'll come back to in a minute.

Monospace fonts, outside of their old-timey feel, evoke a work-in-progress vibe:

"Here there be ideas under construction."

Using screenplays as an example, the primary reason monospace prevails is the fact that a full monospaced page translates to approximately one minute of screen time, which is an extraordinarily useful benchmark.

However, I think it's not just that.

A finalized script is still an unrealized vision.

And, like the screenplay, rarely are blog posts and other such ilk fully realized visions.

No, when we put keystroke to non-paper, I'd argue that the purpose lies in assembling ideas, seeing what fits, and fostering an environment ripe for collaboration.

If you're out here in the wilds of the www's because you have sweeping answers to every topic you deign to grace us with, you're interneting wrong.

Re-enter scene: the conundrum; dapper, sophisticated, troubled.

Monospace fonts with their "don't mind our mess, we're remodeling" vibes are a perfect ideological match for creative writing online. But! Having a satisfying reading experience for you wonderful people is important too.

So, while I make no claim that everyone on the interwebs should immediately convert to monospace fonts, they are underrated and deserve a continued role in our creative lives.

My personal answer to this puzzling affair is to use a professional monospace font on the website, and a proportional font in the email newsletter.

Seems an acceptable compromise.

But at the barest of minimums, good ole monospace fonts remind us that thinking is a project never finished.