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2.3. CSS and Font Formatting

Updated 11.13.13

While some email designers do their best to avoid CSS altogether and rely on the dreaded <font> tag, the truth is many CSS properties are well supported by most email clients. 

Always move your CSS inline

Gmail is the culprit for this one. By stripping the CSS from the <head> and <body> of any email, we're left with no choice but to move all CSS inline. The good news is this is something you can almost completely automate. Free services like Premailer will move all CSS inline with the click of a button. I recommend leaving this step to the end of your build process so you can utilize all the benefits of CSS.

Avoid shorthand for fonts and hex notation

A number of email clients reject CSS shorthand for the font property. For example, never set your font styles like this.

p { font:bold 1em/1.2em georgia,times,serif; }

Instead, declare the properties individually like this.

p {
font-weight: bold;
font-size: 1em;
line-height: 1.2em;
font-family: georgia,times,serif;

Also remember, unfortunately, it's web-safe fonts in email for the foreseeable future.

When declaring the color property in your CSS, some email clients don't support shorthand hexadecimal colors like color:#f60; instead of color:#ff6600;. Stick to the longhand approach for the best results.


Just like table cell spacing, paragraph spacing can be tricky to get a consistent result across the board. I've seen many designers revert to using double <br /> or DIVs with inline CSS margins to work around these shortfalls, but recent testing showed that paragraph support is now reliable enough to use in most cases (there was a time when Yahoo! didn't support the paragraph tag at all).

The best approach is to set the margin inline via CSS for every paragraph in your email, like so:

p { margin: 0 0 1.6em 0; }

Again, do this via CSS in the head when building your email, then use Premailer to bring it inline for each paragraph later.

If part of your design is height-sensitive and calls for pixel perfection, I recommend avoiding paragraphs altogether and setting the text formatting inline in the table cell. You might need to use table nesting or cellpadding / CSS to get the desired result. Here's an example:

<td width="200" style="font-weight:bold; font-size:1em; line-height:1.2em; font-family:georgia,'times',serif;"> your height sensitive text </td>


Some email clients will overwrite your link colors with their defaults, and you can avoid this by taking two steps. First, set a default color for each link inline like so:

<a href="http://somesite.com/" style="color:#ff00ff">this is a link</a>

Next, add a redundant span inside the a tag.

<a href="http://somesite.com/" style="color:#ff00ff"> <span style="color:#ff00ff">this is a link</span> </a>

To some this may be overkill, but if link color is important to your design then a superfluous span is the best way to achieve consistency.

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