Play Nice in E-mail
revised 13 May 2006
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.
Copying: You’re welcome to print copies of this page for your own use, and to link from your own Web pages to this page. But please don’t make any electronic copies and publish them on your Web page or elsewhere.
See also: Challenge-Response Anti-Spam Systems Considered Harmful by Karsten M. Self
See also: Play Nice on Usenet by Stan Brown
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:
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: