Is text-only email creative still necessary when the sender already has an HTML version?

Although recent statistics show that less than 3% of subscribers view email in text-only format, Return Path recommends including a plain-text version of the creative for all messages, especially for emails that rely heavily on images. The plain-text version should be added as part of the multi-part Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) message, a best practice that can help maintain deliverability, conversions, and overall email performance.

The case for plain text

  • Some subscribers do not want to receive HTML messages.
  • Some mobile devices cannot support automatic image rendering but will display a plain text version of an email.
  • Spammers aren't likely to include plain text versions of their message, so using plain text may help signal spam filters that your message is less likely to be spam.
  • Although uncommon, some email clients or apps do not display HTML emails and only render plain text email.


  • Include a plain text version (via MIME) even if the HTML creative features elements to counteract the default images off setting, like a text pre-header and alt-text.
If subscribers are unable (or unwilling) to view an HTML message, these elements are irrelevant. Provide these subscribers with a message that best renders in their preferred environment (in this case, one that is all text).
  • Offer the option of a plain text message as part of a preference center.
This allows subscribers to choose which messages they would prefer to receive in plain text. For example, some subscribers may prefer to receive transactional or service-related messages in text and newsletters and promotional offers in HTML.


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