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Why some recipients receive plain text emails

We send all HTML emails as a multi-part message, meaning a text-only version is sent along with the HTML version. Although most email clients can deal with HTML messages these days, there are still some platforms and devices that can't display HTML.

There are also people who elect to block HTML emails, so sending both helps your message get delivered.

HTML emails with a plain-text alternative are spam filter-friendly. HTML-only emails are a red flag for spam filters because most spammers are not concerned with taking the time to create a plain-text alternative.

So, how is it that someone might receive the plain-text version of your mailing? There are a couple of scenarios, as explained below.

Mail server settings

In this case, either the recipient has turned HTML off for incoming emails, or someone at their company or email host has. There are some companies that have strict no-HTML policies for security and privacy reasons.

Recipients of the plain-text version can still view the HTML version by clicking the "view online" link in the mailing, if it contains one. In standard Emma email templates, the link is contained in the footer, as shown here:

A standard email template footer containing the manage preferences link

Device settings

People who use HTML-disabled devices will only see the plain-text version, for example, someone viewing their emails on an Apple Watch.

Subscriber preference

Have you given people the option to choose their preferred format when subscribing? This is done by locating the "Preferred format" field option on your signup form, then deselecting the "hide" checkbox. This will display the field on your form so people can choose either HTML or plain text when signing up.

Signup confirmation emails

When a new subscriber signs up through an account-provided signup form, we send them a plain-text confirmation email. You have the option to turn this default email off, and can optionally set up an HTML welcome email instead, using an automated workflow based on signup.

Only plain text could be delivered

When you send a mailing, most of your emails will be accepted by the receiving server on the first pass. However, if an inbox is full, or a server is down, or simply not responding, we'll try sending multiple times. Occasionally it can take up to 30 hours after you've sent a mailing for it to reach some people's inboxes. We label those re-tries "emails in progress" on your Response page.

After multiple follow-up delivery attempts, we'll try sending the plain-text version instead. This is to make sure the receiving server isn't rejecting it simply because it's an HTML email.

If the plain-text version does make it through, the contact's "Preferred format" preference is changed to plain text for future emails. If requested, you can change a contact's preference back to HTML by opening their contact record and updating the setting.

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