276: Fixed Width

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Fixed Width
I wish I knew how to quit this so I wouldn't have to quit you.
Title text: I wish I knew how to quit this so I wouldn't have to quit you.


Fixed width or monospaced font refers to the font used in old teletype terminals and some instant messaging clients (often Courier).

For two text lines to have the same length, it's easier if they are in a monospaced font. For example, the following sentences are the same length in a monospaced font, but since we are using a proportional font, those lengths are not exact (the third line is noticeably wider):

<rob> last night was nice
<emily> the best i've had
<rob> yeah it was AMAZING

The title is possibly a double reference, both to a monospaced font and to lines of the same length.

Initially, by mere chance, Emily's and Rob's lines were exactly the same length. This made Rob want to continue the pattern.

That Rob feels forced to change what he wants to type to continue the pattern could be a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.

Because of the monospaced font, any reply with 19 characters (including space) would have continued the pattern. In particular, "definitely for real" or "i'm in love with you" would have worked.

In the title text Rob continues to write a sentence: "I wish I knew how to quit this so I wouldn't have to quit you." He acknowledges that he has a problem, since he cannot quit his desire to keep the fixed width. If he could have quit this desire, then he would not have had to quit Emily. But since he felt he had to keep the fixed width, he involuntarily wrote something that felt for Emily as if he quit her. And he was too late out with his apology for her to read it.


[A man, Rob, is sitting at a computer. The text is an IRC-style transcript of a conversation, in a fixed-width font. He is text-messaging a girl he slept with named Emily; their messages read as follows:]
<rob> hi
<emily> hey you
<rob> last night was nice
<emily> the best i've had
<rob> yeah it was AMAZING
<emily> ok, i have to ask
<emily> is this for real?
<emily> or is it just sex
<rob> definitely just sex
<emily> holy shit
<emily> are you serious?
<emily> you don't know how much that made
        my stomach hurt
<emily> i want to cry
<rob> i'm sorry
<rob> i wanted to type 'i love you'
<rob> but our line lengths were syncing up
<emily> ...
<rob> and it would have broken the pattern
* emily has disconnected

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All these statements would have been aligned, too:

No this is for real
I love you so much!
I really love you!!
It’s the real thing
You can believe it!
I love you!!!!!!!!!
I love you. Really.
Definitely for real

This is an odd one, because Emily presented two alternatives, both of the same length. Both choices would have retained the pattern.-- 09:21, 3 September 2012 (UTC)madd

No it isn't - 'rob' is two characters shorter than 'emily', so his answers have two be two characters longer. So Emily's answers won't do. Kaa-ching (talk) 09:49, 9 September 2012 (UTC)
Nope. 'for real' and 'just sex' (assuming the use of a monospace font, which appears to be the case) are the same length. As 'definitely just sex' allows the lines to match up, 'definitely for real' should also. -- 22:50, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
This is because 'for real' and 'just sex' are both being said by Rob to complete his 19-character message. All of Emily's messages are 17 characters long, because her name is two shorter. 17:02, 8 April 2013 (UTC)
...other alternatives:
Just sex?Ridiculous
Just sex? No way!!!
This isn't just sex
This is for serious
I want to marry you
This is not for sex
Greyson (talk) 21:01, 14 December 2012 (UTC)

I don't understand this statement: "Rob then attempts to justify what he said which, possibly by design, is the normal text alignment for making text being even on both the left and right sides of a page." Does it need clarifying, or am I just confused? St.nerol (talk) 22:18, 22 November 2012 (UTC)

He's referring to the implied pun on the word "justified", which can mean "done for a good or legitimate reason" or "having been adjusted so that print forms a straight line on one or both margins." I'll clarify it. - jerodast (talk) 13:33, 3 December 2012 (UTC)

The "alternative replies" suggested above are hilarious because they betray that their suggesters probably can't relate to compulsions well. To begin with, they begin with capital letters, while the comic lines don't! This is inconsistency. And then, they include trailing punctuation, repeated punctuation, spacing mistakes... 18:50, 26 February 2014 (UTC)

Maybe it's not worth mentioning, Rob doesn't start the conversation intending to synch line-lengths. His first comment "<rob> hi" is the same length as "<emily> ", so she can't possibly reply with the same length. His second comment is conversational too, but his third is probably lined up on purpose. I figure it's also worth noting to alternative-seekers, especially if he was compulsively making the line lengths match, he probably didn't give himself very much time to reply, and "definitely just sex" was the first thing that came to mind. 17:37, 15 July 2014 (UTC)

Here a few ways that could've worked out well, or at least better (all appended together to make easier to see the alignment) :

<rob> hi
<emily> hey you
<rob> last night was nice
<emily> the best i've had
<rob> yeah it was AMAZING
<emily> ok, i have to ask
<emily> is this for real?
<emily> or is it just sex
<rob> em, it is for real!
<rob> as real as it gets!
<rob> it is more than sex
<rob> i think i'm in love
<rob> definitely in love!
<rob> love is undeniable!
<rob> i heart you verily!
<rob> i want you forever!
<rob> i want your babies!
<rob> please don't leave!
<rob> love is in the air!
<rob> you and me, wedding
<rob> sex good, love more
<rob> justifiably in love

I could think of more, but I got bored. -- 05:20, 31 July 2014 (UTC)

This is a parody of the game Emily is away141.101.66.59 13:25, 21 November 2015 (UTC)

It was released THREE YEARS after the comic. Sobsz (talk) 16:28, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
In which case, I suggest that the reverse is true instead. "Emily is away", is a parody or an extension of the idea in this comic. 17:11, 8 July 2020 (UTC)
" is away" 15:48, 28 December 2018 (UTC)