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Are Your Email Messages Good Looking?

By Jim Daniels
Posted Friday, August 6, 2004

"Good looks" are very important in an email message. This is often overlooked by many email users. It is a fact that an email’s content is diluted greatly if the message itself is "not good looking".

Have you ever received an email message that looks something like this...

Thank you for requesting more information about our services! We here at ABC Company would like to present a special offer to all of our cherished customers.

There are two main reasons why email messages turn out looking like this. Although the reasons are quite simple, many email users don’t understand them.

Reason number one is called line length. When composing email, most people just type and type without using a hard carriage return. If it looks fine when you’re done, your email program probably automatically wraps the words in a nice legible format. This word wrap is usually done based on a line length of anywhere from 70 to 80 characters.

Well, lets say I receive your message, but my email program doesn’t have the capability of automatically wrapping incoming messages. Since you performed no hard "end of line" carriage returns when typing your message, my email software thinks it’s one long sentence. Now your nice, easy to read message looks like that example above.

O.K. So how do you avoid this problem? Simple! When composing email messages, use a hard carriage return before you get to the end of each line. I have found that a maximum line length of 64 works to alleviate this problem almost completely! Of course, you’ll always run into an instance occasionally, depending on your recipients settings, but this should do the trick 95% of the time!

Another reason people encounter "funny looking" email messages is called proportional character fonts. Like I mentioned earlier, all email programs are different. Therefore the fonts used by each program varies widely. Basically, there are fixed pitch fonts like Courier (found on Eudora) and there are proportional spaced fonts (like AOL and Compuserve email).

With fixed-pitch fonts, all characters in a paragraph will line up directly above each other. With a proportional-spaced font, CAPS, space bars and other keystrokes are wider, so each line is a different length. The bottom line is this. If you create a message using one type of font and send it to an email recipient using the other, the message will not look the same when they receive it!

Once again, the solution is simple! By using a hard carriage return before the end of the line you can keep these problems caused by the difference in email programs to a bare minimum. If you plan on sending the same message to multiple recipients, or attempt any drawings, consider testing the message with a friend on another service.

There is a third way for your email messages to look bad. Although it is far less likely to happen, you should be aware of it. Many word processing or text editor programs allow you to save a file as another format. (Such as ascii.) It may look great to you, but when sent via the internet it can become scrambled.

You may have received one of these messages at one time or another. They are easily recognized by the repeated "U" characters in the text. To avoid this problem, simply use the cut/paste or copy/paste method to extract text from a document in other programs.

The last thing you want is an email message with great content, being dismissed simply because it wasn’t "good looking" enough.

About the Author
* Article by Jim Daniels of JDD Publishing. Jim's site has helped 1000's of regular folks profit online. Visit ( for FREE "how-to" cybermarketing assistance, software, manuals, web services and more. No time to visit the site? Subscribe to their Free, weekly BizWeb E-Gazette:


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