Resources Hub » Blog » Keeping it Simple: Why Simple-Text Newsletters Work

This is a guest post from Jerry Low at HostScore.

Now that there’s a wide range of digital marketing tools available, some marketers have put email newsletters on the back burner.

But this could be a mistake.

Although SEO, social media marketing, and paid ads can help your business, email is still a powerful platform for promoting your brand and connecting with customers.

In fact, email marketing has some of the highest ROI of any strategy. After all, most people check their email more often than social media platforms.

If you’re still not sure, here are a few mind-blowing stats that might convince you:

What is an email newsletter?

An email newsletter is a consistent email communication sent from a website, blogger, or person.

You can drive your newsletter back to your website where your content and services are hosted. On the other hand, maybe your business begins and ends at your newsletter, with just a signup page for people to subscribe. (Among the top email hosting providers, according to HostScore, are GoDaddy 4.66% and Rackspace 1.12%.)

Whether your newsletter is advertising for your site or the core of your business, you’ll need a great ESP like Campaign Monitor. ESPs manage your email marketing campaigns, lists, and email data.

Email newsletters help your company stay in contact with customers and prospects. Through regular email messages, you can let your audience know about the latest tips, news, products, services, and updates about your company.

Some email newsletters are weekly content digests similar to Rolling Stone’s roundup. Notice how each article on the list gives the reader a “taste” of what they’ll read, enticing them to click through for the full story.

Other email newsletters are used to promote events or products. They can also be a useful tool for internal communication with staff, contractors, or freelancers.

Here’s another newsletter example from the San Diego Chargers:


Instead of an information roundup, this newsletter gives you the need-to-know details quickly and efficiently.

Different types of newsletters

So email marketing, and specifically sending digital newsletters, is an excellent way to promote your business. But where do you begin? One of the first steps is deciding which type of newsletter you’re going to send. You have two choices:

HTML newsletters

HTML is an abbreviation for HyperText Markup Language. It’s the code used to build many websites, and you can use it to spice up your email newsletter, just like the Rolling Stone one.

When you use HTML in your email message, you can include things like CTA buttons, animated gifs, and even video. But should you? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Plain or Simple-text newsletters

Plain-text emails are exactly like they sound. They include text only (formatting and links are okay), but there are no media elements added, such as those gifs and bright colors.

If you’re not sure what a text email looks like, open up the last email message you received from a family member or friend. That’s it.

The benefits of simple-text newsletters

The debate about whether HTML or simple-text emails are better has gone on for years. Marketers who love bells and whistles might be drawn to HTML, but this isn’t always the best choice.

While we often discuss the benefits of HTML and plain text respectively, today we’ll argue the benefits of plain-text newsletters.

Some of the benefits include:

Controlled experience

When you add images, gifs, buttons, and videos to your HTML email newsletter, they may not come through clearly with every email client.

This is going to result in an inconsistent experience for the user. In contrast, you’ll be able to control the experience with simple-text newsletters because any email client will load the content.

Loads more quickly

The many elements packed into an HTML newsletter are going to slow down the loading speed. And we all know that consumers don’t have the patience to wait for your colorful email to load.

If it’s lagging, they’re going to abandon their efforts, send your message to the trash bin, or even unsubscribe from your list. Because simple-text newsletters aren’t bogged down with code and media files, they’ll load much more quickly.

Better engagement

Simple-text emails create the feeling of a one-on-one conversation with your reader. They’re similar to the messages you’d get from family or friends, so the same type of message from a company seems more personalized.

And while accessibility isn’t always talked about enough, plain-text emails are more accessible. For instance, anyone using a screen reader will get better performance from plain text over HTML.

B2B marketer Kevin Fontenot says that he exclusively sends text-based emails because they have higher open and reply rates and have more of a conversational tone. Several other marketers concur.

Jennifer Lux of SmartBug Media confirms that plain text performs better for her clients. Likewise, Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers states that he recommends this type of newsletter and email for most of his firm’s clients.

According to Eric Qunstrom from CIENCE Technologies, simple-text emails outperform HTML as much as nine times better when it comes to engagement. Further, CDMG reports that text-based emails have a 21% higher click-to-open rate on the offer link.

Works on every device

Plain text email messages work on every device, including smartphones, tablets, wearables, and desktop or laptop computers. You don’t have to worry about the responsiveness of your fancy elements in the message because, well, there aren’t any.

Examples of simple-text newsletters

Because you’re using simple text, your email newsletters should be short and sweet. Let the subscriber know why you’re contacting them and then get to the point.

This example from Mailcharts is a perfect no-nonsense email newsletter to new subscribers. The subject line states that the company wants to help with email marketing. It sets the expectation for future messages and invites the recipient to hit “reply” to discuss any email marketing challenges.


Fizzle writes a newsletter aimed at helping entrepreneurs that want tips on building a business:


Who else is using simple-text newsletters?

If you want examples of other companies that are using simple-text newsletters, one suggestion is to start opening more of those messages sitting in your inbox. There’s a good chance that a high percentage of them are created using simple text.

Paul Jarvis is an author and designer who prefers simple-text emails:

“I’ve spent the last 8 years writing a weekly newsletter that’s now read by around 35,000 people. I’ve A/B tested so many variations of the design, and while some tests have been inconclusive, one has been clear as day: simple emails always win. Mostly text, readable text, and text that’s easily readable on mobile devices.

This always beats out graphics-ridden emails or emails with lots of different text sizes and colours. That’s why my Sunday Dispatches newsletter is a single graphic (my logo) and large, consistent type for everything else.”

Drift is a company that makes and promotes chatbots to take marketing campaigns to the next level. The company chose to send out a weekly newsletter from their employee, Dave, recapping the company’s operations.

Dave did this in plain text and wrote as if “he were writing to a friend.” Interestingly, people started responding.

Another company that uses plain-text emails is Expedia’s Cruise Ship department. With its “CruiseShipNews” email, it provides subscribers with updates on various destinations and the latest deals (see below). You’ll notice that the email uses plenty of white space and lists to make the email pleasing to the eye.

In some cases, you might see an email that appears to be in plain text, but it’s really HTML. This is designed in a way to appear as if it were coming from a friend or colleague.

You might get a few of the benefits of simple text email newsletters, but not all of them. One example of this method is an email message from marketer Neil Patel:

Wrap up

Even though HTML email newsletters allow you to add many of the elements that you have on your website or social media page, there are strong arguments for keeping it simple.

Among them: better engagement, faster loading time, and more controlled user experience. If you decide you’re going to send an HTML email, you should consider including a plain text version, so your readers have the option.


Jerry Low is a geek dad who is passionate about web development and SEO. His new website HostScore features a new, data-driven way to evaluate and choose a web host.

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