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Play Nice in E-mail

revised 13 May 2006

Copyright © 2006–2013 by Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems

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

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

See also: Play Nice on Usenet by Stan Brown


Plain Text Good, HTML Bad ...

HTML is wonderful for Web pages. But e-mail isn’t the Web, and e-mail programs aren’t Web browsers. HTML has no place in e-mail. 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 e-mail, since it can be a delivery vehicle for privace threats and other attacks.

Here’s what various people say about HTML in e-mail:


... and What You Can Do

How Can I Avoid HTML in My Incoming E-mail? 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 http://expita.com/nomime.html explains very clearly why HTML is bad in e-mail 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).

That page occasionally disappears; if it’s missing when you look then there are several mirrors where you can get the same text:


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this page:  http://oakroadsystems.com/genl/enice.htm

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