HTML vs. Plain Text Emails: Differences and When To Use

As the word ‘plain’ implies, a plain text email contains only text—no images, stylized fonts, or hyperlinks. HTML, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, is a way to code a document (made out of ASCII text) that lets an HTML reader (such as a web browser) know how to render certain types of information.

There are advantages to sending emails in plain text, and there are times when simplicity is best. But HTML isn’t going anywhere either. As you’ll see, the right time to use these media depends on your target audience, message, and goal. I’ll therefore explore the advantages of both plain text and HTML emails in this article, as well as their respective best practices. I’ve also asked some professionals for their advice on the subject. But first, let’s clarify a few important definitions before we move on.

HTML vs Rich Text vs Plain Text Email Formats

What is a plain-text email?

Emails sent in plain text are uniform in their use of plain font and lack any styling or formatting codes. Some marketing techniques are better suited to HTML since links cannot be embedded in plain text messages. Although plain-text emails lack any additional text styles, graphics, or embedded links, there are some circumstances in which they are particularly helpful, such as the following:

What is an HTML email?

To interpret and display elements like text colors, font styles, in-text links, graphics, and media content, an HTML email uses the hypertext markup language, which encodes the majority of webpages and email clients. While using HTML emails over plain-text messages can enhance your brand’s messaging, there are some situations where doing so is especially advantageous, such as the following:

HTML vs. plain-text emails

The capacity to include text and style elements is the primary distinction between HTML and plain-text emails. While attractive design and responsive features are helpful for many email marketing campaigns, there are a number of benefits and drawbacks to weigh when contrasting HTML and plain-text messaging:

Advantages of HTML emails vs. plain-text emails

The main benefit of using HTML in campaign emails is that you can use a variety of styles and features to make marketing messages more interesting for your subscribers. Even though plain-text emails lack these features, using plain text when you want to create messages that are simple to read and devoid of obtrusive elements can be more advantageous.

Furthermore, HTML enables the development of effective CTAs with visual components like buttons, check boxes, and outbound links. However, plain text is preferable for text calls to action, such as a brand statement and contact details.

Disadvantages of HTML emails vs. plain-text emails

Even though using HTML in your email messaging can be very beneficial, there are occasionally difficulties. One drawback is that email filters occasionally send HTML messages to recipients’ “Junk” folders as spam. Since plain text can typically be read by all email clients, there is less chance that these messages will be flagged as spam by filters.

Phishing links and embedded viruses can occasionally attach to email messages while they are being transmitted because HTML permits embedded elements. Emails sent in plain text can still pass through spam filters, similar to HTML emails, despite providing more security against scams and phishing attempts.

HTML vs. plain-text vs. rich-text emails

While HTML and plain text both have advantages and disadvantages, using rich text combines the best features of both and can help address issues with incompatible elements, spam risk, and engagement. Think about how plain text and HTML differ from rich text:


The only email format that doesn’t offer text resizing or styling options like HTML is plain text. However, rich text offers some appearance tools that let you change the text size and style, like italics or bold print. Additionally, it permits the use of embedded images, but it does not produce any modified code if you want specific elements to have additional style features, such as HTML, to appear.


You can format bullet lists and align text using rich text to achieve your messaging objectives. Rich text can still apply formatting adjustments to emphasize key parts of your messages even though HTML can offer more options for text adjustment. Contrary to HTML and rich text, plain text automatically aligns all text to the left.


HTML is the most advantageous for including tracking and marketing analytics, even though rich text can make plain text more attractive. Similar to plain-text emails, rich text does not support the use of HTML tracking codes. Rich text and plain text both lack the ability to embed tracking, but both are frequently preferred when corresponding with other brands and companies where tracking metrics are not necessary.

How does each type affect email marketing?

Think about the impacts that each email format can have on a marketing campaign’s operational procedures:

HTML emails

HTML can affect your emailing campaign in positive ways. The elements you want to include in your emails to promote the message and your goals will both influence whether you use HTML or not. As a result, this format is frequently effective for business-to-consumer marketing, where it can have an impact on a number of marketing campaign processes, such as:

Plain-text emails

A marketing campaign can be influenced by plain text as well. The following types of communications can be supported by incorporating plain-text emails, depending on the messaging’s purpose:

Rich-text emails

Rich text resembles a cross between plain text’s simplicity and HTML’s extensive styling options. Consequently, the use of rich text in some campaign messages may have an impact on procedures like:


Is Gmail HTML or plain text?

Even if you don’t use any formatting, composing a new email in Gmail automatically generates an HTML email. Fortunately, you can choose not to do that and send emails in plain text instead. Click the downward arrow in the “new email” window and select “Plain text mode.”

Are emails sent as HTML?

Most modern email clients send HTML emails by default. You can write HTML messages using the built-in WYSIWYG editors in Gmail and Yahoo Mail, for instance. However, it can be a little challenging to write HTML in an external editor and then use it in your email client.

Is HTML written with plain text?

As a result, nearly all source code files for programming languages, as well as representations like SGML, RTF, HTML, XML, wiki markup, and TeX, are regarded as plain text.

What is HTML format mean?

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a text-based language that describes the structure of the content in an HTML file. Using this markup, a web browser is instructed on how to display text, images, and other multimedia on a webpage.

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