yours, tiramisu

why i try to write in plaintext

If you've received an email from me recently, you might have noticed that I write almost all my emails in plain text. I started doing so after stumbling across this passionate webpage espousing the benefits of plain text. It does a fairly good job of explaining the benefits and how to make the switch.

Honestly, I don't find the benefits they cite on the website terribly convincing, but the safer nature of plaintext does speak to me. I also admire plaintext's superior accessibility; haven't we all received terribly formatted HTML emails that look horrible on mobile? These advantages remind me a lot of why I was first drawn to Bear. I love that my posts load almost instantaneously, even on slow Internet connections, and how peaceful pages feel without ads or trackers or scripts.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing though. Gmail formats my plain text emails strangely, inserting random newline characters so my emails read like Rupi Kaur poems. And sometimes I feel like not being able to insert photos inline takes away from the message. In these instances I cave and switch back to HTML. But in general, when I don't have any explicitly good reason to use HTML, I try to use plaintext.

On an artistic note, writing in plain text forces me to do without the already fairly austere Markdown tools of italics, bold, blockquotes, hyperlinks, and footnotes. When I have to write without them, I gain a greater appreciation for them. I learn how my writing sounds sans formatting, and notice where it might be improved by the addition of embellishments. This is another reason I love handwriting letters—you can't bold or italicize or really do anything other than underline (and maybe highlight, but who does that) when you handwrite a letter. Your words have to do all the talking.

In short, I try to emulate Ernest Hemingway's philosophy regarding punctuation:

"My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. You ought to be able to show that you can do it a good deal better than anyone else with the regular tools before you have a license to bring in your own improvements."

I know I can't write a good deal better than anyone else with or without the regular tools. I've seen more great writers just on Bear than I can even count. So I'll be sticking to plain text, using formatting as sparingly as I can tolerate.

thank you for reading; write to me at yourstiramisu 🐌 proton dot me

#blog #english #technology #writing