Creating accessible emails

This blog has been updated! Originally published 20/12/16. Amended 16/06/22

Email is now a daily method of communication. It is an easy and fast way to communicate with someone but when you are speedily sending off an email, are you making sure your emails are accessible for your receiver?  

People read emails in different ways, on different devices and sometimes with assistive technologies. For example, blind people may read emails using a screen reader to navigate through your email via a smartphone's speech output. 

Wouldn't it be a good idea to remember to make your emails accessible for everyone? Especially when emails can be easily forwarded and widely shared with many people. We’ve compiled some top tips on how to make sure your next email is accessible.  

Here are some top tips to make emails accessible to all: 

1. Subject lines matter 

It’s important to ensure that you make your subject lines are relevant to the email content. This can make it useful for someone using a screen reader as this is the first thing they ‘hear’, so you want to ensure the email is worth reading.  

2. Add structure to your emails with headers 

Descriptive semantic heading styles can break up your emails and can help reduce the size of larger paragraphs. Correctly marked-up headings can help users to scan emails both visually and when using assistive technology. They make it easier for users of assistive technology to read and navigate through your content – for example, screen reader users can call up a list of headings and use it to quickly navigate to sections of interest.  

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3. Accessible fonts and formats Text 'Can you read this?' in two contrasting fonts.

Using an inaccessible font can slow your receiver from reading your message, for example, they might need to enlarge your email because the size is too small or copy and paste your message into a word document and change the font because it has poor readability. 

Serif fonts such as Times New Roman, Garamond, and Georgia can sometimes be difficult to read for someone with a vision impairment. So, when typing up your emails, select sans serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri. These fonts are also widely recognised by most devices and are more likely to send and appear on screen for your receiver, compared to unique customisable downloaded fonts from the internet.  

Your text also needs to be large enough so all users can access it easily. We recommend 12pt at a minimum. 

4. Avoid using all capital letters and excessive italics or underlines 

Writing in all capital letters and italic letters can sometimes be difficult to read and difficult to understand the meaning behind the text. Readability is reduced with all caps because all words have a uniform rectangular shape meaning readers may find it challenging to identify words by their shape.   

It’s also best to stick to using underlined words only for your hyperlinked text, this can be particularly useful for those who are colourblind know that the text is linked. 

5. Contrasting colours for backgrounds and text 

Some colours might look nice but don't work in terms of readability for visually impaired users. Ensure there is sufficient colour contrast between the foreground text and the background colour.   

6. Meaningful link text Open laptop with underlined text displaying "click here".

Avoid labelling a hyperlink with the phrase "click here", “see this page” and “go here” in your emails. Links should convey clear and accurate information about the destination. 

If there is also an option to include a ‘link title’, don’t forget to do this as it helps people who use their cursor to hover over the link to find out more information about the link.   

7. Images and alt text  

If you’re including images in your emails, make sure you add descriptive alternative text to your image. Not all users can see the image. Disabled receivers of your emails may be using assistive technology like screen readers or other text-to-speech software which will read the alt text instead of the image. There are other situations when the alt text is used too, for example, if a user has images turned off then they will see the alt text instead of the image. 

Learn more about alt text in our blog

8. Clear and inclusive language  

When writing your email, make sure to use clear simple language so everyone can understand. Use shorter sentences that are concise. Avoid using jargon and abbreviations or explain any terms or abbreviations that may be unfamiliar when they are first used. 

Providing a clear summary may also help users with cognitive impairments which affect reading and may also be helpful to screen reader and screen magnification users to help them get to important information quickly. 

Want to learn more about inclusive language? You can find out about language dos and don’ts of disability in our eLearning modules

Further Resources