Plain text or HTML in cold email?
Aleksei Puhachov
by Aleksei Puhachov
Plain text or HTML in cold email?

In this article, we'll look at plain text vs. HTML, the pros and cons of HTML emails, and help you decide which format to use for your email campaign.


Getting past spam filters and improving your email deliverability is a key criterion when assessing the success of any outreach effort. This logic can also be applied to what may seem like an old-fashioned debate – using HTML or plain text in emails?


Many marketers send plain text emails more often, as they are quite effective, easy to create, load quickly and display correctly in any email client and on any device.



At the same time, HTML versions of email also have their advantages:


- Hyperlinks - we often have to redirect the user to some page, such as a product page or our website. For this, html layout is great, which allows you to insert a link into some kind of button or image right in the body of the letter.


- Design - well-made HTML emails look attractive and allow companies to convey their corporate identity even to the inbox.


- Hierarchy - With the help of HTML-layout it is easier to create a clear hierarchy and highlight important places in the message.


- Tracking results - HTML allows you to use mechanisms to track opens and engagement rates - this is important information for optimizing your marketing efforts.


Despite the rather attractive advantages, HTML emails also have quite a few disadvantages and "pain".


It is believed that developing HTML mailing lists is a very thankless task for a designer and developer. We have to “go back in time”, where tabular templates, inline styles and non-semantic markup were used in the layout.



Here is a list of some of the disadvantages of HTML emails:


- There are no standards. While everyone uses HTML and CSS, there are still no standards for how an email client should work. This factor often leads to complex and strange code.


- Mail clients. Email programs such as Outlook and Gmail render HTML differently, which in turn leads to the fact that the end user receives a crooked and ugly email.


- A large number of hacks. In order for everything to work in different mail programs, you need to provide a lot of points that are important for the correct display of the letter in all of them. This most often leads to the frequent use of workarounds and "dirty hacks".


- No JavaScript. There is no web language in email as a class, because email clients cut out such code for security reasons. Thus, letters are deprived of interactivity.


- Inline styles. Most email clients are forced to use inline styles and attributes.


- Getting emails into spam. HTML emails are doomed to often end up in the SPAM or Promotions folder. Spam filters and algorithms of email providers are to blame.


- Images. A large number of email programs turn off displaying images by default, showing users "broken" emails.


- The chance of a response. Most often, HTML emails do not inspire confidence in the user and most likely he will consider your email to be soulless. A potential client will not want to send you a response, as he will consider that this mailing was made by a bot to a large number of emails.



HTML vs plain text emails. When to use what?


Email marketers no longer have to sacrifice deliverability for added visual elements. Hybrid emails allow businesses to balance simple HTML content with the familiar appeal of plain text, and provide spam filters enough data about what's inside one’s inbox so that important messages don't get lost in cyberspace - all while adding sophisticated visuals such as colorful calls-to-action buttons or interactive media.


A/B testing is your compass for determining the most successful means of customer communication. Despite their eye-catching appeal, plain text emails offer many advantages over HTML templates--particularly when it comes to business-to-business cold outreach and correspondence with senior personnel.


With the right message tailored to your audience, images in an email can be highly effective. Whether you're running a retail business, providing branded content or even tracking data - HTML-heavy emails could prove invaluable. 


So, you should already understand how many disadvantages and complexities are associated with HTML emails. Therefore, most marketers and salespeople prefer to use plain text letters, which are as simple as possible to create and save our nerves and time.


It is also worth mentioning that there are quite a few “primitive” users and haters of HTML code in emails, and therefore they simply won’t be able to see your email the way you would like it to be.



Finally, we recommend using plain text emails in your campaigns. We talked about how to write an effective plain-text email in this article.



Watch our video - How to write a cold email? 2022