Key guidance for communicating with the public using email and newsletters is as follows.
Writing for the web
People interact with text differently online than they do in print.
Choose a font colour that will provide good contrast
Simple black and white emails are sufficient for most email conversations, though some people prefer to send replies in a different colour text. Where applicable, choose a font colour that will provide a good contrast, like dark blue or dark green.
Choose a format
You can choose to write your emails, automated email notifications or newsletters in plain text, rich text, or HTML. However, best practice is to provide an option to choose between plain text and HTML.
Plain text email is suitable for most simple, routine correspondence. The advantages of plain text are as follows:
- It is compatible with all email systems.
- It uses the least amount of processing power and storage space.
- It is compatible with all assistive technologies.
However, the limitation of plain text is that you cannot apply document structure and the links are limited to full URLs, which are not very user friendly.
Rich text allows you to add formatting to your text. You can make text bold, add underlines, and insert links. Rich text does not allow you to add ‘semantic structure,’ such as headings, which helps members of the public using screen readers in navigating through long, complicated documents.
HTML email is recommended as the most accessible email format, as it allows you to add formatting and structure to your message. Emails created in HTML can effectively include anything that may be included in a standard web page.
Provide Alternative (Alt) Text for images and graphics
When images are unavailable (for example, if the device is not capable of displaying the image or if the person has a visual impairment), equivalent information must be supplied. Alternative (Alt) Text should be provided to convey the same meaning as the image or graphic.
Use a clear and descriptive subject line on your email
This helps the person to understand quickly the content of the email.
Use clear and descriptive file names for any attachments
This makes it easier to identify the content of individual files.
Inform the person if a document is attached
The body text of an email should mention if a document is attached in different formats. All attachments should be accessible.
Inform the person of when they might expect a response
Providing members of the public with information on the expected response time will help improve their customer experience by providing better communication.
Digital newsletters are often a combination of a HTML email that a person receives in their inbox, which then links to a ‘microsite’ with further information.
Ensure that newsletters follow the guidance above for:
Email and Newsletter Checklist
- Choose a font colour that will provide good contrast.
- Choose a suitable email format. Best practice is to provide an option to choose between plain text and HTML.
- Provide Alternative (Alt) Text for images and graphics.
- All attachments should be accessible.
- Use a clear and descriptive subject line on your email.
- Use clear and descriptive file names for any attachments.
- Inform the person if a document is attached.
- Inform the person of when they might expect a response.