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Recently I have seen more and more emails with an automated note at the bottom similar to:

Did you notice my font is large? This is done for accessibility purposes. It is recommended to use at least 14pt font size with Arial or Verdana fonts being the most legible.

This is accomplished (directly or indirectly) by using HTML markup in email with inline styling, as described here.

I have a question for accessibility experts if this is a best practice. While it seems helpful at first, when I think more about it I worry that it is forcing some styling onto the user that will make things harder for a user who wants to adjust settings themselves client side.

For example an individual user might read easiest with some other font, and use a tool that reflows most text using that font. But will that tool struggle when inline styling is already declaring the font to be Arial?

Or a user might already have browser zoom settings where they like them to be, making more common 12pt text larger. And then the inline styled 14pt font comes along, and it's extra large because the user is already using a zoom setting.

Are these concerns warranted, or am I overthinking things? In practice, do web users who use enlarged text appreciate this practice in emails from other people?

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  • Totally agree. Leaving these settings open to make sure that most user agents can apply the user’s preferred setting is still best practice. I frequently observe users trying hard to read HTML mails with 12px font size on their phone, where everything else is set to 200%. Web browsers do apply zoom factors to font size nowadays, email clients are way behind in terms of this support.
    – Andy
    Commented Feb 5 at 16:47

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Regarding font size

14pt is not something I've seen from any recommendation. I've seen a recommendation of 12pt (=16px)[1] by default, with users being required to be able to zoom up to 200%[2]. Using a larger font by default is not super helpful as browsers and email clients allow users to set a default zoom size.

I'll also note that the page you linked suggests a font size of 14px, which is 10.5pt and thus on the small size of things. But the page does have a toggle between 10.5pt and 15pt.

Regarding font choice

Whenever Arial is recommended I can't help but wonder if that is because the actual thing being said is "don't use Times New Roman". Arial has annoying properties, like l/I and 0/O being hard to tell apart at low vision, and fonts like Atkinson Hyperlegible by the Braille Institute have fixed these issues.

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