First of all, give yourself a hand for creating plain text emails.

Marketing automation has come a long way, but we still can’t see how everyone accesses their inboxes. Inevitably, some recipients in your targeted list won’t be able to support HTML and without a plain text version waiting in the wings, they won’t receive your message at all.

Plain text emails are just that – plain text. They don’t support images, hyperlinks or even formatting like italics, colors, and special fonts. Spam folders also check for text versions of your HTML, since spammers are often too lazy to create one.

There are a number of reasons HTML emails aren’t supported. Maybe your recipient prefers to read emails on his or her Blackberry, or works for a company with strict firewalls; such as those in the government or healthcare industries.

Whatever the reason, your text emails need to be just as awesome as HTML, since you never know who’s not receiving them and why. Don’t treat them as HTML’s boring, younger step-email, but instead consider them an opportunity to develop creatively without depending on modern marketing tools.

  1. Stay as close to your HTML version as possible: Your text email isn’t a middle-man to direct readers to a web-version of the original HTML email. Provide the same information as if this is the only email being delivered.
  2. Focus on the copy: You don’t have the luxury of depending on images, hyperlinks, or design to convey your message. – only your writing. Text emails’ copy should be simple, relevant, and actionable.
  3. Include links: Yes, its true – links often don’t work in text only emails (depending on the reader’s email client). However, its still worth a shot to include them, especially shortened URLs and Itty Bittys. Highlight a couple links as references for recipients to type URLs manually in their browsers.
  4. Find creative alternatives: Since you can’t capture the readers’ attention with colors, bold letters or bullet lists, you need to find other ways to highlight specific messages. Implement old standbys like asterisks (*), dashes (-), exclamation points (!), and Capitalizing Headlines. You’ve probably been taught to have a healthy fear of the caps lock key. Do not capitalize your email’s subject line, as this is a red flag for spam filters. However, capitalizing the first letter of headings and subheadings alerts your readers that This is a New Topic and not a random sentence fragment.
  5. Make sure it’s easy to scan: Since you’ve already written beautiful copy, divide up your content with clear headings. Best practice is to press Enter (or the Return key on Macs) about every two sentences. This way, readers will be able to access the information they need quickly.