Two questions

I've been told the following by a designer:

1) "justify text" (through css) is becoming more and more deprecated so it might not stay consistent between email clients

2) <p>, <hr> tags and <h1> tags do not display consistently between email clients, which is why a better practice is to use padding in cells, borders instead of horizontal rules, and set font-sizes and line-heights instead of using <h1> tags

As I really like justified text the first is worrying, and the solution in the second point seems an awfully complex kludge. Is this all correct?

Alex I., 4 years ago


Your designer is indeed correct. We never use justify text in our emails. To get round a few other issues you raised:

<p> = we never use, we just use table cells and rows to control spacing.
<hr> = we just use coloured table rows.
<h1> = we use spans. <span style="font-size:21px;">text here</span> for example.


JohnP JohnP, 4 years ago

I remember reading somewhere a while back that there were inconsistencies with the <span> tag for text. I haven't tried it in a while, but I exclusively use the <font> tag for all text styling. Also use a double <br> (or <br /> for xhtml) between paragraphs instead of <p> tags. For top and bottom padding you can either make a 20px high cell above and below, or do it the lazy way:

paragraph one
paragraph two

Some clients collapse the blank line above and below the text, so putting a &nbsp; in there is a workaround for that.

Hope that helps some...

roshodgekiss roshodgekiss, 4 years ago

Hi JohnP, I second that. While I don't use <font> so much these days personally, <br> tags can be especially helpful. Keep the good tips rolling in!

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SCA, 4 years ago

1. How can 'justify text be depreciated? It's critical for good looking typography. Campaign Monitor's CSS Guide ( indicates it is supported by ALL major clients.

2. This article ( argues that the <p> tag is now well-supported.

I wish Campaign Monitor's team posted here. I would be interested in hearing their view.

roshodgekiss roshodgekiss, 4 years ago

Hey there SCA, that was my response just earlier (I'm a mod). I'm sorry for not weighing in on your text formatting questions, as I thought Alex and JohnP experiences were fairly spot-on.

Your designer is partially correct - text-align: justify; is not formally being deprecated, however different browsers and email clients tend to 'agree to disagree' on how it should be implemented. The issue largely comes down to hyphenation, or in summary:

Effective justification of text can only be achieved if long words are hyphenated. html and CSS 2 do not have any provision for automatic hyphenation and current web browser support, even for manual hyphenation, is poor. So don’t justify text on the web.

- see:

The potential for text-align: justify to be implemented inconsistently between clients, add 'rivers' through text and incorrectly work with hyphens is generally why designers try to avoid using it. I recommend reading this discussion on StackOverflow for a couple of opinions on this topic and the odd workaround, too.

In regards to the use of <p>, <h1>, <hr> tags etc, the bottom line is that there will always be variation in how elements render from client to client, regardless of what approach you take. If you are particularly sensitive to padding and margin use, I'd highly recommend applying a 'reset' first, like:

h1, h2, p, hr { margin: 0; padding: 0; text-weight: normal; ... }

Then, you can adjust to taste.

Personally, I try to use cell padding, <br/> tags over <p> for single-line breaks and the border CSS property in the scenarios you've mentioned. However, I don't mind using heading tags and p tags where necessary, keeping in mind that these headings and paragraphs won't look exactly the same from one client to the next.

Thanks, SCA! If you have any questions about the above, we'd be happy to respond. Thanks to JohnP and Alex L too for helping out - we appreciate it :D

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SCA, 4 years ago

Thanks for your detailed comment and the links. Much appreciated. Interesting to read the diversity of opinion on StackOverflow. Personally I feel the injunction 'don't justify on the Web' is too strict: certainly for narrow columns, but I've viewed our single wide column newsletter on multiple clients and with many variations of content and the justification looks pleasing to the eye, and good enough even someone as anal as myself. I believe the reason for this is the newsletter's very generous line and paragraph spacing which visually makes any errors more forgiveable.

Thanks for the info on the other points. Viscerally I hate resorting to kludges, and the thought that in 2012 one can't even rely on a <p> to provide a standard spacing, let alone Gmail stripping out CSS, is like a bad flashback to 1995, and makes me finger my Luger.

roshodgekiss roshodgekiss, 4 years ago

Hah, 'tis the follies of email, SCA - you'll be glad to know that we inline CSS in the <head> at send time (ie. move it to the body), thus preventing Gmail from stripping all goodness out of our messages. But in regards to poor CSS support, this is indeed the burden email designers like you and I carry. All the best ;)

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