Invisible Emails

Dear Email Diva,

In Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN and AOL the emails we are sending out are being delivered to the users' inboxes, but all content and images have been deleted. There is absolutely nothing to see -- no links, nothing! Can you shed some insight on this?

Zachary Schenkler
Co-Founder & President

Dear Zachary,

Since HTML is not in the Email Diva's skill set, I asked smart person (and longtime Web site developer) Kal Hadi. He had this advice:

"I cannot comment on that specific situation since I don't have the code in front of me, but, in general:

All Web-based email clients, such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail etc., delete all code above the body tag of the HTML email. If the email document doesn't have its own CSS code, and is placed below the body tag, the email will default to the CSS used by the email client itself, which will cause it to render improperly and in some cases could change the font color to white on a white background, which makes it invisible.



If you use CSS, place the CSS code below the body tag, and use tags in the email itself for those clients that don't read CSS. Example:

color: #000000;
<font color="#000000" class="blackfont">copy here</font>

Also, using Div tags or layers in emails is not recommended, and aren't read by some email clients, especially Web-based clients. So they might have used Div tags when they didn't see anything."

Loren McDonald at EmailLabs recommends avoiding CSS altogether. His site is an excellent resource for HTML guidelines. This article, in particular, is a must-read for all email programmers.

I signed up on your site and received several emails. While I didn't receive any invisible emails in Outlook 2003, there are a couple of things to consider. As with so many emails I receive, the only thing I saw in my preview pane was a box with a red X in the corner. Not everyone will add you to their Safe Senders list, so you should always assume that MOST of your list will preview your emails with the images blocked. Rather than place a large image at the top of your email, consider putting it on the left side. What you need at the top is a condensation of the most compelling reason to read your message. We are all wading through spam, commercial, personal and business-related email, trying to determine what merits our attention. Every roadblock you put in front of readers, such as requiring them to scroll down or unblock images to get the gist of the message, will result in a falloff in readership.

Finally, you have a lovely conversational writing style that conveys your enthusiasm for your new site. Grammar, punctuation and proofreading, however, are not your strong suits. For the persnickety among us, like the Email Diva, this leaves an unfavorable impression. Find someone like my editor, the fabulous Phyllis Fine, to review your prose before it is published.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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