Decisions decisions: Should you use Plain text or HTML in your email marketing campaign?

Many people are unsure of the benefits of sending a HTML and a plain text version of your email marketing campaign. Some senders will do one, or the other, but it’s usually best to send both.

Here we’ll explain the differences between the two, and the pros and cons between Plain text or HTML email.

Plain text

HTML is all around us, any pictures, tables, boxes or colours that you see will have been built using HTML. But any text you will see has been created in plain text. Even if you use HTML in your email, your message will still be written in plain text. Some people think that plain text is boring, but it can be powerful when used correctly: your text can be bold, italic or underlined. You can use text to SPEAK LOUDLY, or to be pensive….and thoughtful…

Plain text is easier to create, you don’t need any specialist knowledge to build an email, and you just need to type. Different email programs will display HTML differently, but text is always displayed as, well, text, no matter what client your mail is being opened on.

The arguments FOR plain text

-  Text will display consistently across all email clients

-   Always necessary when sending messages

-   Looks more personal

-   Easier to view on mobile device, especially Blackberrys

-   Gets through spam filters easily

The arguments AGAINST plain text

-   Looks boring, can’t use colours, graphics or dynamic content

-   URL must be typed out, can’t be embedded into a word/phrase

-   Harder to read when in large sections

-   Can’t use multiple column formats easily


HTML allows you to be more creative in your email marketing campaigns. You can use colour and images to connect with readers in different ways. You can use HTML to match your email to your company’s branding.

HTML is not just good for making your email looks nice; it will also allow you to track activity within your emails. You will be able to track click throughs and opens, without having a glaringly obvious tracking URL within the message.

The arguments FOR HTML

-   Easily track opens

-   Can embed links within text

-   Easy to break up content into simple parts e.g. columns, headers

-   Allows you to be creative

The arguments AGAINST HTML

-   Takes longer than text to prepare

-   Images are blocked in the majority of email clients as they are associated with spam messages. They are only loaded when the recipient chooses.

-   Looks less like a personal email

What’s the verdict?

Using plain text or HTML is a decision that can only be made by you. You’ll need to think of your time, effort and cost implications, as historically HTML emails take longer to build, and you may need to hire someone if you don’t have the expertise.

HTML can be more effective than a plain text email, simply because of the endless opportunities you have when using images and your own branding.

Ultimately the choice is down to your subscriber. You should send both types of email when you send your campaign, so that the customer will see content no matter what client or device they open your email on.

Do you send plain text or HTML, or both? How have your subscribers reacted? Let us know below.

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