- The LONG DP Jargon Guide
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In general, plain text (sometimes, "plain vanilla" text) refers to a file that contains only alpha-numeric characters, with no formatting markup. Because of plain text's software-independence and universal-accessibility characteristics, PG requires that all e-books hosted on its site be provided in a plain-text version, no matter what other formats (HTML, PDF, etc.) may also be made available.
PG has always expressed a preference for using a character encoding that can represent sufficient characters for a text, yet can also be very widely used by common software of the day. For many years, that meant using the ASCII character set as a "lowest common denominator". That gradually evolved to prioritizing the Latin-1 character encoding. And by 2015 DP was routinely submitting UTF-8-encoded plain-text versions to PG.
While plain-text e-books contain no formatting markup per se, some formatting conventions using plain-text characters are commonly used. For example, italicized text is usually indicated by wrapping it in _low-line characters_; thought-breaks are usually rendered as a string of asterisks; etc.
(Plain text is often spelled without the space as plaintext at DP, although in technical contexts, the term plaintext usually refers to the "clear text" content of an encrypted file.)