Why Plain Text Emails Win

How do you write to your friends?

Really, if you're writing a note to a friend or fellow employee, do you go to your mail system, open a pre-formatted template, find some images, add links, stuff it full of personalization and send a fancy, graphic-laden email?

Or do you just fire up Gmail or Outlook and write a plain old email you know will get read? You don't have time to make it fancy — you have an important message or question, and you want them to see it and answer it right away. Nor do you have time to scan through a graphical newsletter.

Plain text is exactly just words on a page. It’s not code. Plain text emails are basic, simple and straightforward. They don’t have fancy italics or formatting or graphics. Plain text emails are easy to read because, like letters from friends, they’re free of distractions. This also makes them feel more personal and intimate.

What's your inbox look like, and which emails do you open right away, and which ones do you save for later, or move to your bulk folder?

Newsletters Look Like Propaganda because they are

Assuming your graphical email got through the spam filter that is.

Admit it, we're all too busy. And more than half the time, we're reading emails on our mobile devices. Which means small screens. So why expect your prospects or customers to take the time to enjoy your wonderful picture heavy flyer. If it looks like an ad, it probably is an ad. And we don't have time for it.

I've been writing successful direct marketing letters for more years than I care to admit. But I will tell you this, for years and years, I've outperformed others with simple, direct messages sent in a plain font. and by outperforming others, I mean generating more sales, more donations, more engagement, more affinity.

Write a plain text email next time and see what happens.

Time and time again, we have seen folks regularly sending email newsletters using an email template. These emails get very little engagement. To prove our point, we remove all template elements and send the same message in a plain text email. It usually has an excellent open and click rate. 

Not to belabor the point, but plain-text emails get a higher deliverability rate. Plain-text emails look more personal and less “sales-y” than pre-formatted graphical template emails. And last but not least, because these emails look more natural and personal, their conversion rates (e.g., clicks, responses) are much higher.