June 30, 2022

How to Format and Send Plain Text Emails

Image source: Getty Images

Simplicity can be effective. You don’t have to spend hours designing an HTML message. A plain text email can be just as effective. Learn why.

HTML emails have become the norm, and most businesses spend a lot of time and effort designing full HTML emails with all the bells and whistles. The uphill battle to get customers to read and click on your emails relies heavily on increasingly complex design.

Yet sometimes less is more. Sometimes your customers may just want to receive the information in a simple, no-frills, fast and relevant format. This is where plain text emails come in.

The difference between HTML and text emails is like the difference between sending a nice card or writing a letter, but for the digital age.

Overview: What is plain text email?

Plain text emails consist of the copy you write. There are no images, no videos, no GIFs, no buttons, and no other graphical or interactive components.

Plain text emails are a rare breed. Going through my emails, the only message I could find in plain text format was the one below from the Strength Running fitness community.

A plain text email from the Strength Running fitness community.

The Strength Running fitness community uses plain text emails. Image source: author

4 Benefits of Sending Plain Text Emails

You should always send a plain text version of every email; otherwise, customers who cannot view HTML emails will see raw HTML. Here are more benefits of sending plain text emails.

1. Improve email deliverability

Even with extensive testing both with email marketing software and sending a draft message to your colleagues for review, it’s impossible to predict how the email will appear in someone’s inbox. user, or if it will even pass the spam filter. If images aren’t displaying or there’s a problem with your HTML code, your email is more likely to end up in your recipient’s spam folder.

Some users have blocked images from showing in their emails, and some opt for text messaging clients, which means your messages will look strange or the recipient won’t be able to see key parts of the message.

Providing a poor user experience is sure to lead recipients to click the unsubscribe button or worse, report your message as spam.

Email providers consider plain text messages to be more likely to have a legitimate sender than emails filled with images, videos, and GIFs, which means these messages are more likely to be delivered. in the recipient’s inbox.

2. Faster to create

You can spend hours crafting a beautifully designed email only to see low open and click-through rates, meaning you’re not getting any real benefit from the message. Instead, you can focus on creating copy that converts and spend a lot less time designing to potentially get the same (or better) results.

3. Support for new devices

We carry more technology and devices than ever before. These devices have different ways of displaying information. Take wearables: If a subscriber opens a text email on their smartwatch or fitness tracker, they’ll have a better experience than if they try to open one with images and GIFs.

That’s why it’s important to give your subscribers the option to choose between receiving HTML or plain text emails, allowing them to determine which device they normally use to read their emails.

4. Create a personal connection with your customers

Text emails feel more natural than graphic emails that sing and dance. Plain text emails are better at making it seem like you’re talking to just one recipient and sending a personalized message.

HTML emails are great for mass marketing efforts, but plain text emails are useful if you want to show customers how much you value them as individuals.

When should you use plain text emails?

Plain text emails can play an important role in your overall marketing strategy if used at the right time and in the right context. Here are some examples.

When subscribers ask for them

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how they like to read their emails. When a customer signs up for your mailing list, ask them if they want to receive your messages in plain text or HTML.

Make sure you have a subscription center where your customers can easily change their preferences whenever they need to.

When Mail Servers Reject HTML Emails

If an e-mail server rejects an HTML e-mail and your e-mail marketing software cannot deliver it, you must ensure that this information is updated in your system. Next time, you should send those customers a plain text email to make sure the message gets to the recipient’s inbox.

In addition to HTML email campaigns

We don’t recommend that you only use plain text email campaigns. They have their place, but you should mix up the format of your messages depending on the campaign type and subscriber preference.

It’s also good to send a variety of different messages, so you stand out and provide something unexpected.

How to Format and Send Plain Text Emails

Formatting plain text emails requires a different approach than you use when sending HTML emails. HTML emails grab people’s attention with eye-catching visuals, while plain text emails rely a lot more on copy.

1. Be brief

Don’t overdo the text or you will overwhelm your audience. Keep your text short, catchy and concise. Since you have to rely entirely on your copy to attract readers, you have to work hard to find hooks and write engaging copy that will guide them to the action you want.

Don’t stuff your email with all the information you want to convey. Instead, add links and calls-to-action (CTAs) so recipients can learn more if they’re interested in a topic.

2. Use lots of white space

If a recipient is an avid fan of your company, they may take the time to read the entire email cover to cover, but many readers will want to scan the message first to see if it has an interest.

Make sure readers can quickly determine the key points and purpose of your message by leaving plenty of white space in your emails.

3. Format your text

Just because you’re creating a plain text email doesn’t mean you can’t use text formatting. Use bold or italic if you want to highlight text or parts of the copy. Remember to use it sparingly or you will lose the effect.

4. Highlight your CTAs

In HTML emails, you can add large, colorful buttons to your CTAs to clearly indicate the action you want users to take. But getting attention for CTAs is harder with HTML emails.

Here are different ways to highlight your CTAs:

  • Test different positions
  • Bold the text
  • Add multiple CTAs

5. Use email marketing software

Email marketing software companies can help you create emails in different formats and track the performance of each message you send. ConvertKit’s email editor is specially designed to help you send plain text emails with interesting and engaging copy.

ConvertKit's email editor displays styling options on the right side of the photo of a blue sky and draft email text.

ConvertKit’s email editor helps you create plain text emails. Image source: author

HTML or Text Email: Which Performs Better?

Text-only emails may not work for all businesses and industries. That’s why it’s important to test the performance of HTML emails against plain text emails to see which performs better. Create two emails for the same campaign and monitor different metrics for each.

You may find that text versions work better for certain types of campaigns, such as order confirmation and delivery information, while HTML email versions work better for announcing sales and promoting new product lines. . Test relative performance as much as possible if you want to get the best results from your email marketing campaigns.


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