Posted by Bethany Handy ● June 10, 2016

Email Formatting Basics and Best Practices

Engaging emails that turn prospects into customers and customers into loyal followers have not only great subject lines and valuable content, but also excellent formatting.

In a world full of different email clients, apps, and mobile devices, email formatting is more important than ever.

If you don’t format your emails properly, your emails may fail to hit the mark, even if they offer good value. Here are some email formatting basics and best practices that will help you get your email design right all the time, regardless of the type of emails you are sending.


  • Keep the width of your emails under 600 pixels to ensure that they display properly in all email clients. Also, test and optimize your emails for mobile devices, as many people open their emails first, or even exclusively, on mobile.
  • Include in all your email templates your company name and address, as well as an unsubscribe option, in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.
  • Use a professional template builder to create responsive, CAN-SPAM-friendly email templates faster, even if you don’t know HTML or CSS.
  • Don’t attach files such as documents, videos, presentations, or interviews directly to your emails but link within your email to an online page where they can be downloaded, using an appropriate call to action.
  • Include a sharing feature, allowing recipients to easily share then with their friends.
  • Include social media follow buttons to your emails, to drive social media engagement.
  • Use simple plain text bullet points rather than HTML-style bullets to ensure that they are properly displayed across all email clients and mobile devices. A safe approach is to use simple dashes (-) instead of bullet points.
  • Use a solid background color instead of an image background. Image backgrounds don’t display properly in many email clients and can considerably reduce the loading time of your emails.
  • Use JPG instead of PNG images as the latter are not supported by all emailing apps. Also, optimize the images you use, reducing their size and compressing them as much as possible without significantly lowering their quality. Optimized images will make your emails easier to load even on devices with slower Internet connections.
  • Specify image with and height for images in your email template to ensure your emails will always maintain their structure. If you do not, when email clients block images, the template structure of your emails may be affected.
  • Maintain a good balance between text and images. If you use too many images your email may get labeled as spam. What’s more, some email clients block images by default, requiring user action to display them, which can make your email look pretty odd at first glance.  
  • Integrate preview text into all your emails, placing it at the top of the content. Some email clients will display this next to the subject line.
  • Create a plain-text version of every email you send to make sure your email reaches users whose web browsers or mobile devices don’t support HTML.
  • Use clear, visible calls to action.

Using these email formatting best practices will help you increase your email open rates. More than that, it will provide your recipients with a superior email experience.

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Topics: Email Marketing