Is that a lowercase L, an uppercase I, or the number 1?

Updated June 7th, 2019.

Sometimes you are assigned a password that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 12.13.34 AM
Hmm. I can’t tell!

Very hard to tell whether that is a capital I, followed by two number ones, or a lowercase L followed by a 1, etc. And those two zeroes on the end– one of them must be a capital O.

Best way to handle this is to select the password, copy it, and paste it somewhere that lets you change fonts, like an email or a Pages or Word document.

Here’s the same password, changed to Baskerville.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.50.29 PM
Now I can tell!

Generally speaking, a serif font makes it easier to tell letters apart. Serif fonts have little feet on them, and include Baskerville, Times, Palatino, American Typewriter, Big Caslon, Century Gothic, and many more.

In Baskerville, it’s easy to see that the fourth character is a capital I. The next character is not so clear but the next one is definitely the numeral 1, which makes the character after the capital I a lowercase l. You can tell that the next two characters are not the same– one is a zero, one is a capital O– but it’s hard to say which, so type one of each and find out.

The last character is neither a 1 nor a lowercase L nor the number 1. The only thing is could be is the “pipe” character (at the far right on most keyboards, with the shift key). So that’s what it is.

If you’re the one making up passwords, avoid using the characters that can be confused with others. Just don’t use zeroes or capital Os or capital I or lowercase L or the number 1.

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2 thoughts on “Is that a lowercase L, an uppercase I, or the number 1?

Add yours

  1. Times New Roman is better than this. Your lowercase L looks too much like the number one. With Times New Roman, I don’t have that issue.

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