When sending email from an application (for example during user registration, booking confirmation, and account alerts), is it important to also send a plain text version?

My understanding is that plain text email was popular among users in the years past since it used less bandwidth and was therefore faster to load on slow internet connections. Therefore all important email communication was sent out in a plain text version (along with the HTML version).

When sending important emails to users in 2021, is it still recommended to also send a copy in plain text?

Note: an easy answer would be "yes", simply because it's the safest thing to do. But I wonder if any users these days lack the bandwidth to download and read an HTML email? And therefore is the plain text version really necessary?

  • 2
    it may not be a bandwidth issue, it may be environment (CLI only as an extreme), aesthetics and/or privacy that drive people to configure text/plain > text/html .. always send the plain version along. I bet there's an RFC that says it should/must be so!
    – flowtron
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 7:49
  • @flowtron good point. But do people really send email from the command line, or is it more of a 'theoretically possible but unlikely to ever occur' type scenario?
    – stevec
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 12:02
  • 1
    if there are clients for it I guess the scenario is not sooooo unlikely as you'd like it – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutt_(email_client) – the effort to (even auto-magically) reduce a given HTML to plain text is not /that/ hard .. and - speaking of bandwidth - the slight overhead of duplicating a fraction of the bytes contained in the text/html part is really negligible compared to the horror of needing to reply to user complaints of "I got an email with subject 'mega important' and empty body" ;-)
    – flowtron
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 12:12
  • 1
    A couple of things to consider: Notifications (OS, client, etc.), mail client snippets, and possibly accessiblity. I have to imagine it would be easier for a screen reader to read the text/plain version over untangling an HTML layout.
    – tehShane
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 23:42

1 Answer 1


There are many use cases for plain text emails, and we should not assume that everyone has equal access to data and connectivity. Not to mention the fact that service outage and black spots are also part of the modern disruptions in life.

The best way to ensure that the entirety of the content is preserved and visible in all situations is to use plain text emails. There will also be valid reasons why you are not always able to display or render all content in plain text, but in this case the question is whether plain text emails are still important in 2021 (and beyond).

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