Plain Text vs HTML: Which Is Better For Email Deliverability?

Updated March 2024

There are two types of email formats: plain text and HTML.

Plain text emails are better for your deliverability. This means that if you send your cold emails as plain text (not HTML), then your emails are more likely to go to the primary inbox (not spam).

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about plain text and HTML emails:

Pro tip: I recommend that you send your cold emails with Emailchaser, because we send your emails as plain text by default.

What is a plain text email?

A plain text email is an email that only contains text.

Plain text emails don’t contain links, inline images, bold/italic text, HTML code or formatting.

screenshot showing plain text email

What is an HTML email?

An HTML email is an email that contains HTML code.

HTML emails are usually highly formatted and are often used by companies when sending marketing emails.

HTML emails contain links, inline images and bold/italic text.

Any email that you receive from a newsletter will be HTML. If you send marketing emails through services such as MailChimp or ConvertKit, then your emails will be sent as HTML.

Cold emails can also be HTML if you add links, inline images and formatting.

screenshot showing an HTML email

What is the difference between HTML and plain text emails?

Plain text emails do not contain links, inline images or bold/italic text.

Plain text emails look personal (one-to-one communications), whereas HTML emails look like highly formatted marketing emails.

screenshot showing marketing email that is HTML

Is it better to use HTML or plain text for email deliverability?

Plain text emails are better for deliverability.

This means that if you send your cold emails as plain text (not HTML), then they are more likely to go to the primary inbox (not spam).

This is one of the reasons that I recommend that you send your cold emails with Emailchaser, as all emails are sent as plain text by default.

screenshot showing follow-up email section in Emailchaser

Why are plain text emails better for deliverability?

Email service providers prefer plain text emails over HTML emails.

If you send your cold emails as plain text, then email service providers (Gmail, Outlook etc) are more likely to send your emails to the primary inboxes of their users.

There are many reasons why email service providers prefer plain text emails over HTML:

1. People don’t want to see HTML emails
HTML emails are usually used for marketing i.e. emails that you most likely don’t want to see in the first place. Email service providers do not want to fill their users’ inboxes with marketing emails. As a result, if your email is HTML, email service providers are more likely to send it to the promotions or spam folder.

2. HTML can be used as a vector for phishing scams
Hackers can use HTML to add links to emails that disguise the URL (destination) of a link.

When someone clicks one of these phishing links, it often will take them to a fake login page (such as a fake PayPal page), where the unsuspecting victim will proceed to enter their real login credentials, thus giving the hacker the victim’s login credentials.

If your cold emails contain links (HTML), then email service providers are more likely to send your emails to spam to protect their users from phishing scams.

3. HTML emails invade privacy by tracking recipient actions
Almost all email marketing softwares (MailChimp, ConvertKit etc) send HTML emails that contain inline images to track whether recipients have opened the email or not.

Email service providers know when an email contains these tracking inline images. Since they don’t want to show their users marketing emails, they are more likely to send your cold emails to spam if your cold emails are HTML and contain these inline tracking images.

You can learn more about this in my article Does Email Open Tracking Negatively Affect Deliverability?

4. HTML emails are less accessible
It is more difficult for people who are visually impaired to read HTML emails. How can a screen reader accurately read inline images or speak bold text to their visually impaired users?

As a result, email service providers prefer plain text emails as they are more accessible.

5. Mail client vulnerabilities
HTML is a very complicated set of specifications that was designed for browsing the world wide web (not email).

There are many security vulnerabilities that mail clients are exposed to with HTML emails that they are not exposed to with plain text emails.

6. Rich text (HTML) isn’t that great anyways
Despite the small benefits of links, inline images and italic/bold text from a user experience perspective, the risks associated with HTML emails are not worth the reward.

Having your cold emails sent to the spam folder is not worth the risk.

You can still communicate effectively with plain text emails. After your prospect has responded to your first email, then you can include links and formatted text, but you should not do this in your first email before a response has been received.

How do you write an email in plain text?

If you are sending emails with Gmail or Outlook, then you can select to send them as plain text.

However, if you are a sales professional sending cold emails, then I recommend that you use Emailchaser, as emails are sent as plain text by default. You can connect your existing Gmail or Outlook accounts to Emailchaser, and send your emails as plain text.

screenshot showing email connection options in Emailchaser

Frequently asked questions

Can plain text emails have hyperlinks?

No, plain text emails cannot have hyperlinks. HTML is required to add hyperlinks to an email.

Why is it important to format your email in plain text rather than HTML?

It is important to send your cold emails as plain text because this will improve your deliverability, meaning that your emails are more likely to go to the primary inbox (not spam).

Final thoughts

Sending your cold emails as plain text will improve your deliverability.

You should not send your emails as HTML, since this increases the chance of them ending up in the spam folder.

I recommend that you send your cold emails with Emailchaser, as it sends emails as plain text by default.

If you want to learn how you can avoid spam folders when sending cold emails, then check out my article How To Improve Your Cold Email Deliverability.

picture of George Wauchope

Article by

George Wauchope

Founder of Emailchaser.

I have been working in the sales & marketing industry for nearly a decade.

When I’m not working on my business, I enjoy eating sushi & doing jiu-jitsu.

About the author
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