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Plain Text or HTML

How to set:

It's a choice YOU, the user, make when selecting preferences on the type of email that you send. How can you select your options? Open Entourage's Preferences under Entourage in the Menu bar.....

Entourage Preferences

Make your selections in Entourage Preferences.


Select from the popup for Mail and News Messages if you want to send in Plain Text or HTML.pref_compose_select.gif

In the Fonts section, select your choices for HTML and Plain Text.

  • Fonts sizes you select will affect your messages you send in HTML
    • The recipient will see what you select
    • Depending on the platform, this can vary.
  • The settings for plain text only affect what YOU see and not what the sender receivespref_fonts.gif


If you have vision problems and like large sized fonts, send your messages in plain text instead. Same goes if you send in small sizes. Be considerate of your audience. You can toggle HTML off/on in the toolbar. This makes it easy to easily switch between formats depending on your audience.


If you receive an HTML message that is too small to read, you can use Command + (plus key) to enlarge font size. To reduce font size, use Command - (key to the left of the plus key). You'll find these shortcuts under Edit in the Menu bar. Note: you do not actually use shift to get the plus key symbol +. You are actually typing Command =.


Take the test....

  1. Are messages composed in HTML more readable?
    • Actually if the font is too small or too large to read, it does not make them more readable.
    • You can emphasis words in plain text. See below.
  2. What is more important when you compose a message?
    • My message looks more "professional" using HTML.
    • My message is readable and considerate of the recipient's choices.
  3. Why is HTML discouraged in public forums like newsgroups and mailing lists?
    • You are asking for help. Shouldn't you want your message to be easily readable by those that could help you?
    • Some newsgroups forbid the use of HTML.
  4. When is using HTML in a public forum acceptable?
    • One example would be when you send the code for AppleScript. Sending in HTML preserves the line breaks when copying the code.
    • Sorry, I can't think of a second one....

How to emphasize words in plain text

No one is disputing the importance of adding emphasis to your messages in the form of bold, underline and italics. The problem is how to add emphasis when using plain text.

  • Use Asterisks *
    Setting off a word or phrase with *asterisks* is the plain text equivalent of bold.
  • To use italics in plain text email messages:
    Put a slash character before and after the /italicized passage/.
  • Underline in Plain Text Email Messages
    To mimic underlining in plain text email: Use underscore characters at the beginning and end of the _underlined passage_.
    Uppercase letters are useful to emphasize important points, but use them sparingly! One or two words is sufficient. All Caps in a messages is considered shouting.
  • Exclamation Points can add emphasis.
    Consider this example: Thanks for the help. Thanks for the help!!!
  • Use dashes and underlines to set off word(s).
    It's -imperative- we meet next week to discuss the budget.
  • L e t t e r s p a c i n g can also emphasize words
    Use this one sparingly.
  • Use Headings and Sub-Headings
    • Use all Caps to create a Heading
    • Use ==> to create a subheading
  • Create bullet points with a standard keyboard symbol
    • Dashes (-)
    • Plus signs (+)
    • Asterisks (*)
    • Double asterisks (**)
    Use the Space Bar to place a single space immediately after each symbol (and before the words)
  • Use spaces and tabs to indent text.

Visit the Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard page for help designing plain text newsletters.

Standards to improve the readability of plain text email newsletters by all readers, including people with visual impairments using special access technologies.

Tips for practical newsletter design cover both HTML and Plain Text Newsletters.


Do you have a signature that has images? Not everyone has unlimited download service. Even your HTML message without images is going to be bigger and slower to download. Consider your audience when you are sending emails and how your choices will impact their service plan. One option is to send your first message with your enhanced signature, then after that switch to one that is bloat free.

Do you realize that if an Entourage user has selected to have Spotlight index attachments, it will cache your sig image over and over and over. This fills up drives with redundant images. Be sure to read Don't waste time with unbusinesslike signatures

IMHO- Use Plain Text or HTML

The debate over whether to use plain text or HTML is often a hot topic on the newsgroups. Explanations of how much easier it is for a user to view mail in his preferred font size with plain text and the fact that message sizes are smaller don't seem to matter. Users want pretty emails. Corporate policy demands it and everyone does it.

HTML has it's place and that's ususally not email. The differences in how each email client renders HTML varies widely. This is especially true between Mac and PCs. Email is a means of communicating and it's your words that actually count, not how they look. Do I expect this love affair with HTML to go away. No, but just remember if you send me a request for free help and send it in a font that is too small for me to read, I just might not reply. You've shown me no courtesy in sending your request. The same could be true if you are subimitted a bid for a project and the receiver cannot read it.

One of the most requested features for Entourage is being able to create a hyperlink (live underlined words in ordinary text that open linked web pages) in Entourage messages. Consider this. Spammers use this to mask their phishing links. Still want them? We were once in love with big cars and SUVs, but that is changing. I can only hope that common sense will return when selecting your choice for formatting your messages.