A few years ago, we made the recommendation that plain-text emails include a line break at every 60 characters or so. Since then, the email client landscape has changed dramatically, with not only the emergence of mobile clients, but far less people using legacy platforms, too. As a result, it’s time to switch into reverse gear.

Our new recommendation is simple – when designing plain text emails, let text wrap naturally, instead of manually inserting line breaks into paragraphs. The reasons for this are:

  • Outlook ’07/’10/’13 do not honor these added line breaks and make text wrap regardless. These are still some of the most popular email clients
  • iPhone Mail does honor line breaks, resulting in ‘raggedy-looking’ paragraphs of text (see pictured)
  • Most modern email clients force text to wrap at readable dimensions, say, when a plain-text email is viewed in the preview pane
  • Well, adding line breaks to plain-text email just takes time and effort

We’ve also updated our guide, ‘Designing for the Inbox‘, to reflect our new recommendation. There’s other timely tips on creating plain-text emails in Chapter 2, ‘Designing Plain Text Email’, so scoot on over for a good refresher.

Crossing the line

If you’ve recently composed a plain-text email, or edited the plain-text version of a campaign in the app, you may have noticed that we’ve removed the red guideline at the 60-character mark in the editing window. We’re also removing line breaks from the automatically-generated plain-text version, for the benefit of mobile email clients. Here’s what editing text content used to look like:

Previously, editing a plain-text version of a campaign

Now, the red ‘recommended width’ line is gone, as are the forced breaks. Of course, this may not be to everyone’s taste, so you’re welcome to still add line breaks. But for the majority of modern, mobile-toting subscribers, having text wrap in their email client should either not make a difference, or make your content substantially more readable than before.

  • Dan Cooperstock

    It strikes me that one exception to this is if you have point form points that are longer than one line – if you want them to be indented on the 2nd and further lines, you would have to put in manual line breaks.

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