Why You Need a Plain Text Version of Your Email

Published: 27-Aug-2021
Last Updated: 26-Aug-2021
Why You Need a Plain Text Version of Your Email

What is a Plain-Text Email?

A plain text email is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an email that contains only unformatted text and full URLs. No text formatting (fonts, colors, etc.) or images are included in a plain text email. There's no where for your copy to hide. There's no flashy graphic or animated GIF to draw your readers' eyes elsewhere. 

Plain text emails sound very different than the carefully crafted email templates marketing pros send every day. 

They may even sound worse. 

But… 

Most of the emails sent between friends or coworkers are plain-text. So email clients and spam filters see plain-text emails as higher quality than HTML emails.

And humans do too… 

Even if an email is automated. Our brains like that plain-text emails appear to be from a real person. When we open an email and it has templated elements we know that it's a transactional email. 

Plain-Text Versions as a Fail Safe for HTML-Based Email 

Plain text emails create a fail safe for users who are unable to view HTML emails. A subscriber may be unable to view HTML emails due to an issue with their email client or they have chosen not to receive HTML emails. 

Luckily, marketers don’t have to choose between sending plain text and visual email content. Email automation software allows marketers to send a HTML and plain-text version simultaneously. This is called Multipart MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).  

Including a plain text version with your email campaign increases deliverability and control over user experience. And it’s super easy. Most email software automatically creates a plain text version. Meaning all marketers need to do is make simple edits to increase readability. 

HTML Emails should Always be Accompanied by a Plain-Text Version

Multipart MIME has made it almost effortless for marketers to send both versions of an email message. Here are 4 reasons creating a plain-text version of your email is worth the time.

Alexa, Siri, & Google 

Emails are now being read on smaller screens or even read to us by our AI assistants. And these devices default to the plain-text version. Wearables (apple watch, fitbit, etc.) and smart speakers are here to stay and the devices used to answer email will continue to evolve. It's up to marketers to cater to these alternative inboxes so answering transactional emails is convenient for consumers. 

Plain Text Email Deliverability 

Email clients have sophisticated rules in place to protect user experience. And failing to include a plain text email with your campaign can trigger a spam filter. 

Accessibility 

285 million people globally are visually impaired. This includes the total blindness, low vision, and those that are colorblind.

In a world that has become so digitally dependent it can be difficult for the visually impaired to complete tasks online. Luckily, the American Disabilities Act is now been applied to digital storefronts. Pushing companies to increase accessibility in their marketing. 

Providing a plain-text version is an easy way to make sure those using a screen reader are able to recieve your message. 

We Need Control

Marketers are control freaks. The simple reason being, marketers are responsible for what is distributed on company channels. Sending plain text emails with your multi-part campaign is the only way to control what subscribers who are unable to view HTML emails see. 

Using Stand Alone Plain-Text Emails 

Plain-text emails shouldn't always be used as your Plan B. Sending plain-text messages can be a valuable part of your marketing & sales mix depending on the nature of your business.

Some companies use plain-text email outreach as one of their main methods of lead generation. For example, it's common for sales driven companies (especially in B2B software) to hire teams of sales development representatives to churn out personalized messages to leads in targeted accounts. 

This sort of one-on-one communication when done correctly is appreciated, but like all things marketing when they're done incorrectly it comes off as spammy. 

Most small companies do not have the budget to hire a building full of sales developments representatives. That's where technology comes into play!

When reaching out to a large number of accounts, plain-text emails sent via sales development software is a useful option. Sales development software (ex. Outreach, Salesloft, etc.) give your sales team the ability to thoughtfully send scalable personalized cold email outreach.

Tips You Need For Formatting A Plain Text Email

Graphics, Gifs, and fonts are not an option when creating a plain text email. But there are still a few formatting tips to keep in mind. Think of formatting a plain text email like formatting an English paper or business brief. There are simple things (and some more creative) that can be done to increase the readability of a plain text email. 

Here are 3 things you can do to increase readability: 

Create Short Versions of URLs (no one wants to look at unformatted URLs that are 80+ characters long).
Use All Available Symbols (use underscores to underline titles, draw an arrow ---> to a CTA, or use hyphens to create a bulleted list )
Create space between sections of text (no one wants to read lines and lines of continuous text). 

Which Email Format is Best?

According to Databox, 62% of marketers send a mixture of plain text and HTML emails. And that's the strategy we recommend as well. Templated marketing newsletters have cemented their role in the marketing department. They are great for sending newsletters, announcing a new product release, or creating hype about a seasonal sale. But plain-text emails deserve more love. A well written plain-text email can be just as effective as a beautifully designed HTML email. So there's no reason to pick a side in the debate of plain-text vs. HTML because they should both be a part of your marketing/sales mix. 

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