Yet Another HTML Email Rant

I came to accept HTML email as somewhat necessary evil. Or rather, I’m wiling to acknowledge that it has legitimate uses. For example HTML links are much nicer and convenient than those 5 mile long URL’s. Most email clients will take a URL and linkify it for you, but when the address spans 3 lines (like for example every single website on a simple link is usually more elegant than truncated or word-wrapped URI. So if you send me an email which contains a HTML link or two I really won’t get mad. In fact at least one of the applications I coded up recently, routinely sends HTML emails – but these are essentially time sensitive reports that need to be formated into tables. And HTML tables look nicer than ASCII tables – at least to normal people.

What irks me though is the blatant abuse of HTML at the hands of some people. For example, is writing your entire email:

in a font like this

really necessary? I can really understand the aesthetic value of being able to write some words in bold or italics for emphasis, without using some old school tricks like using asterisks or underscores but come on. Using this type of formating is a selfish, and inconsiderate. Fortunately most clients are able to strip shit like that out of emails. For example my KMail is able to rip off any funky formating generated by Outlook but it leaves well formed HTML alone. I’d like to think that this feature was developed for this very reason. ;) Unfortunately the HTML emails generated by Thunderbird are not stripped and so I’m still left to suffer ugly ass correspondence.

If your email looks anything like the example above you need to seriously stop. It’s not cut! It does not give your emails more personality – it just makes them look as tacky as your myspace page. All it does is tells your recipient that you are a pompous, selfish luser with no aesthetic tastes whatsoever. If you want to play around with HTML get a myspace account and create a lovely theme with a dark on dark color scheme and a screamingly bright background image that just drowns out everything else, like everyone else does. But leave your email in the default boring font – especially your work email. Yes, I actually exchanged emails with people who used similar font and color for official work related correspondence.

These people were not working with me, or for me. My boss would probably have them publicly flogged for something like that. I guess the email etiquette rules at their place doesn’t really exist. Nevertheless I found it very unprofessional – not to mention annoying.

You already know my opinion on tacky email signatures. I just needed to get this out of my system. Email is not your myspace page. People actually need to read it (does anyone actually read myspace pages? I thought they were mostly about pictures and ugly ass layouts). Note that not everyone enjoys your super sized, raging pink font as much as you do. Be considerate!

[tags]email, html email, email format, email formating, ugly emails[/tags]

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8 Responses to Yet Another HTML Email Rant

  1. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    But without HTML email we would not experience clipart and–even cooler–animated gifs!! How can you be so selfish?!

    Just yesterday, I was talking about how the school system should change and I mentioned that perhaps students should have to take a basic design course in high school (to teach things like color choice, proximity, contrast, repetition, how to not use hideous fonts, etc.). Some of that can be taught in art, but art generally isn’t required (and isn’t available in many schools). Plus, design is applicable to nearly everything in the business world in a very concrete way. If people had a concept of when whitespace is good and when it isn’t, half of all resumes would instantly improve (as well as memos, announcements,etc.).

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  2. Craig Betts UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Solaris Terminalist says:


    I also can’t stand people that put their message in a M$ Word document and attach it to the email.

    Maybe I am just old school. I still use ASCII art to draw diagrams just because text can be read on any computer.

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  3. vacri AUSTRALIA Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Once again we get the disconnect between power users/professionals for whom such a thing is a hindrance, and regular users, for whom such a thing is part of the message itself. As an example, my mother likes playing with text colours (not so much fonts) and they mean something to her and her friends. I could care less, but thankfully green text is a lot easier to deal with than stupid fonts…

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  4. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Ian – I concur. This could actually be a very good thing for the internet as a whole. Or at least it would improve the quality of myspace pages. :mrgreen:

    @Craig – sigh… ASCII art doesn’t work when your users figure out how to change the default font in Outlook and also in notepad to some non-monospace crazy looking thing. :(

    @vacri – Thank God my mom haven’t figured out how to change font color’s yet. :mrgreen:

    But yes, I think you hit the nail on the head here vacri – there is something about ugly colors, animated gifs and lot’s of flash dodad’s that seems to appeal to the most clueless users. Case in point: Myspace profiles.

    My theory is that you can tell a persons level of fluency with technology by how ugly their myspace profile looks. ;)

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  5. jaymz UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    we have a client at our office that sends all emails in Comic Sans and in an almost neon-like blue. Its ghastly. I am a fan of ‘useful’ HTML in emails, like you say bold & italics or tables for sure. It does wind me up though to see a 150Kb email of which there is only a paragraph of text within it.

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  6. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    Have you seen the bad comic sans site? The design police site might also come in handy ;)

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  7. Ian Clifton UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux says:

    bad = ban… stupid keyboard ;)

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  8. b smith INDIA Internet Explorer Windows says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head here vacri – there is something about ugly colors,

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