Poorly-formatted emails can be a problem for sender and receiver alike. No matter how you construct your email, there is always a chance it isn’t going to look quite the same once it drops into the recipient’s inbox. Likewise, regardless of which email client you use, you’ll have got used to receiving the odd one which has clearly not translated quite how the sender intended.

Email marketeers must concede that the odd incorrect line break or marginally-misplaced image is inevitable but, happily, largely unnoticeable to their greater audience. What isn’t acceptable is an email campaign which ends up markedly different in all but the most robust mail clients. Fonts which change size and type mid sentence, hidden links which come out of hiding, images incorrectly sized or, worse, absent… they will all turn your readership off in an instant and paint a very unprofessional image.

More seriously, it can consign every message you send to the spam bin, no matter how pretty it looked during composition.

There are three steps you can take to ensure your message gets through in the most readable, attractive fashion whilst still maintaining cross-platform compatibility. The good news is, they’re all straightforward and, as always, common sense prevails.

Graphical overkill should, generally, be avoided. For starters, the more images you fill your email with, the more likely it is going to be stopped by the spam police. They’ll also take longer to load for those on slow or mobile connections. Thumbnails are generally the way to go.

Intensive code, while generally resulting in an attractive web experience, isn’t best suited to HTML emails. JavaScript, Flash, ActiveX and other rich programing is more likely to suffer compatibility issues on certain email clients. There’s also a chance it’ll divert your important message to the junk folder. Stick with good old HTML and let your email marketing client do the hard work.

Plain text rules. It might be dull, but, as a rule, always paste text from external sources into your email client as plain text. That way, there’s no chance of any nasty formatting (Word has a habit of adding this without you knowing) coming along for the ride.

Above all, keep it simple. It’s possible to have an attractive, captivating email with moderate use of images and a single font used in a couple of sizes (one for headers, one for body content). Take a look back at some of the emails you’ve received and responded to – they’ll almost definitely follow this rule.

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Mark is one of mailingmanager's email experts. His contributions to this blog openly share the tricks, tips and best practices he's learned while running multiple e-marketing campaigns.

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