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Formatting Conventions

Formatting Conventions

Before studying any encryption methods, it will be helpful to understand the formatting conventions that will be used in the course. Plaintext will be typed in lowercase monospaced letters, ciphertext will be typed in UPPERCASE MONOSPACED LETTERS, and keys will be typed in UPPERCASE MONOSPACE ITALICS.

Text Type Formatting
Plaintext the urge to discover secrets
Key 3
Ciphertext WKH XUJH WR GLVFRYHU VHFUHWV

Monospaced fonts are helpful to keep text spaced uniformly so letters on different lines line up underneath each other. Uniform spacing and text alignment are helpful when looking for patterns in ciphertext. Additionally, programming environments always use monospaced fonts to keep your computer code tidy and make it easy to reference rows and character positions in the code.

Some common Monospaced fonts on your computer are: Courier New, Source Code Pro, Monaco, and Menlo.


You may have noticed in the opening activity that knowing the number of letters in each word was incredibly valuable when analyzing ciphertext. The sender of a message can improve the security of encrypted text by grouping letters into blocks of 5. The result is a ciphertext that removes all information about the length of the words in the message. This should be considered standard practice for ciphers in this course. Notice that this technique requires the recipient to correctly space out the message after decryption, but this can normally be done relatively easily by identifying words in the unspaced plaintext.

For Example:

Text Type Formatting
Plaintext the urge to discover secrets
Ciphertext WKH XUJH WR GLVFRYHU VHFUHWV
Ciphertext (blocked) WKHXU JHWRG LVFRY HUVHF UHWV
Deciphered Plaintext (blocked) theur getod iscov ersec rets