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Play Nice in Email

Revised 13 Apr 2016

Copyright © 2006–2017 by Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems

Summary: In email, send plain text not HTML unless you know for certain that the recipient wants HTML. For your own safety, refuse incoming HTML email. This page explains why and how.

See also: Challenge-Response Anti-Spam Systems Considered Harmful by Karsten M. Self

See also: Save our inboxes! This Email Charter has ten ways you can become a better sender of email.

See also: Play Nice on Usenet by Stan Brown

Plain Text Good, HTML Bad ...

HTML is wonderful for Web pages. But email isn’t the Web, and email programs aren’t Web browsers. HTML has no place in email. At best, it bloats the transmitted message; at worst, it produces unreadable gibberish on the receiving end. And recipients do well to refuse HTML in email, since it can be a delivery vehicle for privacy threats and other attacks.

Here’s what various people say about HTML in email:

... and What You Can Do

How Can I Avoid HTML in My Incoming Email? explains in general terms how to configure your mailer properly, and gives links to specifics.

To configure your mailer for outgoing mail, see Problem Solving: Sending Messages in Plain Text. It gives specific instructions for a host of the most popular mailers—23 of them, as of May 2006.

The classic Configuring Mail Clients to Send Plain ASCII Text at explains very clearly why HTML is bad in email and you should be sending plain text. Even better, it explains how to set up almost every mail program (including AOL, Hotmail, MSN, and Yahoo).

If the archive page is missing when you look, then there are several mirrors where you can get the same text:

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