Email formatting

email formatting Email is already the most popular communication formats in the online world, for decades. Statistics show there are around 300 billion emails sent by over 2 billion email users. Below you can find some insight into email formatting and certain tricks.

Most people don't realize that email messages can be formatted in two ways: plaintext email or HTML email. This is due to the fact that most email clients default to the html format, which is more flexible regarding presentation possibilities. It is, however, important to learn about both formats and their pros and cons.

Firstly, let's clarify what are html email messages. For readers who don't know what HTML is, a loose definition would be that HTML is a programming language for creating web content. HTML can be displayed in a web browser or any other program that can interpret HTML. This includes most modern email clients, like Outlook, Thunderbird, iOS and Android email applications etc.

HTML packs together text content and information about how this text should be displayed, for example: Font type, size, color, bold, italic etc. With the help of formatting tools, html emails can be formatted in lots of ways: Creating bullet lists, emphasizing important text through formatting as bold or underlined, inserting images, creating hyperlinks, even displaying text on several columns into tables. It gives you the ability to express yourself freely. In a way it is like a web page is displayed.

What about plaintext email messages? As their name states, these are just simple text messages, containing no other information besides the text content itself. A plaintext email contains no formatting information, so it will be rendered using the default style of your email client application. The advantage is, however, highest compatibility as all email clients will be able to read and display plaintext emails properly. They are also smaller in size and therefore they are transmitted quicker and will occupy less storage on disk when saved.

We should use html emails when we need advanced formatting support, for example when sending promotional messages that need to impress clients, while still outlining the most important information. In such case we can embed logos or other images, create complicated "Click here" links and format the text however needed.

The disadvantages of html emails include bigger message size (because the email also contains formatting information), and most email clients block images by default; therefore there can be significant display inconsistencies between different email clients. Most importantly, html messages have a higher chance of being flagged as spam by email filters, thus not reaching the recipient's inbox at all. If your biggest concern is delivering the message, then it would be better to not use html emails, but plaintext emails instead.

Furthermore, due to today's immense load of automated promotional emails being sent, plaintext messages appear far more personal. They are smaller in size, since they contain only the message itself, they always render with no problems on each and every email client, and furthermore they are much less likely to be flagged by a spam filter. We should use plaintext emails whenever we have no special requirements for styling and want to ensure that the message gets delivered.

Most email clients, both web and standalone applications, offer us the possibility to set the content type of the email message, or they even support multipart email messages, consisting of both plain text and html parts. Normal sections are sent as plaintext, while formatted ones are marked as html. You can observe this by displaying the source of an email in your client application. This is a compromise between the two approaches.

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