Why You Need Plain Text Emails

by | Last updated Jun 21, 2022 | Digital Marketing

Read Time: 4 min read

Summary: TL;DR: Plain text emails are a crucial backup for HTML email campaigns, ensuring readability across all email clients and catering to diverse consumer preferences. They simplify information consumption, especially on various devices, and require strategic design with clear CTAs and limited links. Including a plain text version alongside HTML emails is essential for accessibility and user choice. By optimizing for all screen sizes and keeping the design simple yet effective, businesses can enhance email engagement and avoid potential pitfalls in email marketing. Remember, a well-crafted plain text email can be a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal.

Plain text emails, while not the most appealing to send, are designed in such a way to give your business an escape route when an HTML email marketing campaign goes wrong. No company wants to resort to a last-ditch effort to make sure their emails are viewable, but in some instances it’s necessary. After all, HTML emails aren’t foolproof or 100% perfect.

Why You Need Plain Text Emails

Plain text emails are your “get out of jail free” card. They give you the chance to avoid losing a consumer’s attention, and they also provide all of your consumers with the chance to read an email the way that they want to read it. Before starting your next email campaign, consider the following.

Not All Email Clients Are Created the Same

It seems odd that in today’s online world, email clients can’t support HTML emails, but it’s still happening. You’re not always going to be sending emails to the newest, up-to-date platforms. Because of this, you need a backup plan.

As the list of email clients continues to grow, be sure that you’re prepared to send an email that can be read by every email client available to the public today. Campaign Monitor has a good list that tells you what can and cannot be seen on different platforms.

These same email clients could also drop your email into the recipient’s spam folder in the event that you have CSS the email client doesn’t understand. This is almost worse because emails that end up in the spam folder rarely find their way out.

Not Every Consumer Enjoys HTML Emails

Every consumer that you’re trying to reach has different preferences for reading emails. While HTML emails are more common and received regularly, not everyone wants emails like that.

With plain text email, it’s easier to find information without having to wade through images or calls-to-action. Plain text lays everything out simply and can be skimmed quickly, saving the consumer time and hopefully, keeping them happy.

Choosing to add plain text emails to your next campaign is relatively easy to understand, but just choosing to do so won’t get you any results. Your emails still need to be styled in order for consumers to easily read them on any device.

What You Should Do With Plain Text Emails

Creating the plain text email isn’t where your campaign creation will end. You need to be sure that what you have created will be read easily, regardless of where a consumer views the email. An email full of text and links doesn’t serve much purpose. A plain text email with calls-to-action and specified links, however, makes it easy for consumers to know what you want them to do. Consider the following for your plain text emails going forward.

Optimize for All Screen Sizes

You can’t always assume that someone is going to be reading your email on a desktop these days. You have smartphones, tablets, and now wearables that can receive email notifications, and if you aren’t designing a plain text email to provide the same information across all devices, then you’re putting yourself in a hole early.

One simple fix to give consumers more information prior to opening your email is through the use of preheaders. A preheader will show up below an email’s subject line and give a quick overview of what the email will provide.

For mobile and wearable devices—which could change digital marketing in years to come—a preheader could be the reason a consumer looks at your email or not. They’re looking to get the information at a glance, and if you don’t give them what they’re looking for right away, then they may not come back to read the full email.

Design the Email Simply

When you create a plain text email, you’ll realize very quickly that everything is going to look the same. No different fonts, no formatting, nothing. You need to make sure your email flows in the same way that it could flow with the help of HTML. To do that, you’ll need to do a few things.

  • Distinguish CTAs: Since you can’t distinguish a call-to-action from another line of text in your plain text email, you’ll need to improvise. Consider using page breaks by linking multiple dashes (-) or equal signs (=) across the page to make spaces that will act like headlines. For example:


Your CTA Here


  • Limit the number of links: Just as you’ll overwhelm a consumer by placing too many images or too much HTML on an email, the same can be said for link after link. With no formatting, you can’t hide a link behind text, so each one will be out for everyone to see. If you can limit the amount of links you use while also making sure you aren’t overusing long-tailed URLs, you can effectively keep the email shorter and more appealing.

Finally, bundle your email types. When you send an HTML email, as most people will, make sure to provide a plain text attachment so that consumers have the opportunity to choose. This can be done by using a MIME format, which allows you to add various content types, such as an additional email in a plain text format.

There are many ways to design a plain text email, so do your testing before sending yours out across your email lists to get it right. Doing so may pay off for you in the long run.

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