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Is the Plain Text Version of an Email Still Necessary?

Lynette Rambo | October 13, 2015 

The plain text version of an email may not be as exciting or fun as designing the HTML version, but it is still an important part of a well-rounded email marketing program.

While HTML emails generally feature images, different fonts, a variety of color options, as well as clickable links, the text only version is plain text.  The purpose of including a plain text email is so that your message still gets through to people who have HTML turned off or have a device that doesn’t accept HTML – like the Apple Watch. Including a text alternative to HTML is also looked upon more favorably by Spam filters.

SPAM FILTERS LIKE TEXT ONLY EMAILS

Most spammers do not include a text only version with their emails. It takes too much time, and lazy spammers are too busy throwing out lines and seeing who they can reel in with the least amount of effort. Therefore, spam filters like to see a text version in conjunction with the HTML version of an email. That’s one less red flag, and your email is more likely to reach the inbox.

When sending your emails, make sure “Multi-part MIME” (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is checked on whatever email platform you’re using before you hit Send.  Multi-part MIME bundles together both the HTML and text versions of your email as it sends.  Unless you are sending ONLY a text email (not HTML), multi-part MIME should be a part of every email campaign.

HTML IS NOT SUPPORTED ACROSS-THE-BOARD

Believe it or not, some email clients and apps still can’t handle HTML. Or, if they do, the display may be messed up.  Therefore, having a plain text version of your email will make it easier for the recipient to read regardless of the device they’re using.  And, besides, some of your subscribers choose to only receive text only emails, so if you’re sending only HTML, they won’t receive them.

SOME IMPORTANT TIPS ABOUT TEXT EMAILS

Text emails may not be that exciting, but they don’t have to look boring.  You can do a lot from your keyboard to jazz them up.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Include the full hyperlink on a separate line and remove multiple lines of the same link. For example, in the first screenshot below, each red arrow represents text, an image or a symbol in the HTML that is hyperlinked to the full article.

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This second screenshot shows how Multi part MIME interprets this in the plain text version.  If your email platform automatically adds a text version to your HTML email, this is what it’s going to look like.  Not only is this a lot to navigate through, but it’s wasted space. Most likely, the receiver of this text email is going to ignore it.

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A better way to present this would be to utilize keyboard characters and spacing to make the text easier to read … like this:

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  • Text only emails do not handle HTML encoded symbols, so any special characters you code in the HTML version, be sure to change them to keyboard-equivalent alternatives. For instance, to get the long dash as it shows up below in the HTML, it was coded  “—”.

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However, it looks like this in the plain text version.

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So, be sure to change special character codes to the equivalent character from your keyboard.  In this case, a regular dash: “THE ENGAGER – September 2015”.

  • Break up the text by using ALL CAPS for headlines, keyboard characters for dividers, and asterisks for bullet points. In the example below, the asterisk was used repeatedly to create a frame for the article title, which is also in capital letters. To help the link stand out, “READ MORE” is also capitalized. And, the spacing makes the email easier to read.

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This format uses asterisks as well as a row of dashes.

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Here are a few more ideas:

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  • Skip the line breaks. It’s no longer necessary to manually add line breaks every 60 or so characters.  Just let your lines wrap naturally.
  • At minimum, provide a summary. Some marketers opt to just provide a “View the web version” link in their plain text emails. While this is better than nothing, at least provide a summary and CTA for the main point you’re trying to get across. Are you having a sale? Let the email recipient know what the sale is and provide a link to where he or she can get more information. By providing a teaser, you at least increase the chance your plain text emails will be read.
  • Keep Mobile in Mind. Just like with HTML, you should also make sure your text email is easy to read on a mobile phone.  Space text out so that it’s easy to read and links are easy to click with a finger.

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Lynette Rambo

Lynette Rambo | Marketing Consultant

Lynette Rambo is a Salesforce Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, Administrator, Email Specialist, and Trainer. She has worked in marketing and communications for more than 20 years and with Salesforce Marketing Cloud since 2012. As a Marketing Consultant and Trainer for ListEngage, Lynette helps clients learn Marketing Cloud functionality, email marketing best practices, and effective campaign management. She also works with the Salesforce CRM and connecting Sales and Marketing initiatives. You can contact Lynette at lrambo@listengage.com.