December 23, 2021

5 Simple Answers to Email Preview Text FAQs

Reading time about 9 min

Here we’ll answer five frequently asked questions about the preview text. You’ll learn everything you need to boost your open rates with the preview text of your next email campaign.

The preview text is a short copy that displays below the subject line in many email clients, such as Gmail and Outlook. It’s a teaser that gives more info about the email.

In one-to-one email exchanges, it’s often the email’s opening: “Dear Katja, Thanks for your email…” Most email marketing software, however, let you choose what preview text to be displayed. That’s because for business communication it’s important to control this real estate in the inbox. It’s additional space for your message. Relevant preview text increases email open rates.

As an email marketer, you don’t want to waste this vital space. It’s your last chance to impress your readers in their inbox before they scroll on, leaving your email campaign unopened.

Here’s all you need to know about email preview text so you can get the most out of it.

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1. What’s the difference between a preheader and a preview text?

Most marketers use “preview text” and “preheader” interchangeably. That’s because in many emails, these are one and the same thing.

But …

If you want to get technical about it, they are actually different things. You’ll often find subtle differences in what your email marketing software lets you do with your preview text and your preheader.

The email preview text is the text that displays in the inbox. It shows a brief preview of the email you’re about to read. Typically, it simply is the first line of the email.

The preheader is a small text that appears at the very top within the email itself. In most email marketing software, by default it is a link to the browser version of the email. Which is why unless you change it manually, your preview text will read, “View this email in your browser.” But you can do better than that!

The email preheader text that appears above the header within the email body. In this case it is “View in browser.”

The preheader is the tiny text that appears above the header within the email body. In this case it is “View in browser.”

2. What should I write in the preview text?

The preview text adds value, expands your message, makes it clearer what the email is about, and helps get the recipient to open it.

Now, with that purpose in mind, the email preview text should complement the subject line, not complete it.

When writing preview text, remember that it doesn’t display in all email clients. This means you want to avoid including information necessary to understanding the subject line because then some subscribers will miss it. Don’t make the message of the subject line + preview text dependent on the preview text.

Now, supplemental doesn’t mean boring! Write your preview text using the same methods you use for crafting a subject line:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Drive action
  • Spark curiosity
  • Put key terms at the beginning
  • Keep it short

Email preview text best practices

One common practice is to put an additional CTA in the preview text. An example would be: “Check out our latest articles!”

Another good practice is to use the preview text to summarize the content of your email campaign. This way the recipient sees what it’s about at a glance.

This strategy is particularly useful if you send a regular newsletter. From nonprofits to blogs, just listing the top stories included can go a long way to increase open rates.

Related: A Complete Guide to Email Marketing for Nonprofits

Now, if you ignore the preview text, by default it will usually show text linking to the web version of the email. With Brevo, for example, this will happen automatically if you don’t set the preview text. This helps the user experience by making the email readable in their browser, sure. But we suggest you go beyond the default.

The dos and don’ts of preview text

Here are some good and bad email preview text examples to help you come up with ideas.

Do with preview text ✅

  • Add a product-specific CTA, e.g. ‘10% off Shoes ⏳ Offer Ends Today!’ or ‘Find the right sandals for summer!’
  • Draw in with a personalized call: ‘Regan, Get Your Vans Before They Sell Out!’
  • Give more details about the subject line: ‘Get Your Free Shipping While It Lasts’, ‘All orders of $20.00 and above’
  • Complement a question in the subject line: ‘Sam, do you need to convince your boss? New study on email marketing ROI!’
  • Mention a few of the topics covered in the email: ‘The Hometown Garden Association Newsletter. Read about the park cleanup program and new trees planted on Main St.’
  • Use emojis to add color and draw the eye.

Don’t do with preview text ❌

  • Ask a question in the subject line and answer it in the preview text (not all recipients will see it and so they’d miss the point):
    ‘What are we offering 10% off on?’ – ‘All Shoes!!!’
  • Repeat the subject line’s message. That’s extra space to add value.
  • Leave the subject line incomplete and finish it in the preview text: ‘Book your…’ – ‘Last-minute airfare today!’
  • Cause unintentional word association: ‘Book your last-minute flights today.’ – ‘Prices are crashing.’
  • Let your code show:
    ‘The Hometown Garden Association News’ – ‘<html><head><title>Howard T. Pennicut elected new board member…’

Remember to avoid the spam filter! Just like with subject lines, watch out for anything that could be perceived as spammy behavior in preview text. This means avoiding writing in all caps, using excessive exclamation points, or stuffing it with too many emojis.

3. What are the preview text character limits for email clients?

Did you know that the preview text does not display in all email clients?

Also, each email client displays a different number of characters in its preview text. These range between 40 and 140.

The table below gives you an overview of current display limits in the most popular email clients.

Provider Displays Preview Text? Maximum Character Count
Apple iPhone Yes 81 (vertical); 137 (horizontal)
Gmail Yes 97 (web); 90 (iOS app); Varies (Android app)
Outlook 2013 and up Yes 35 (Windows); 55 (Mac); Varies (web)
Outlook 2010 and earlier No
Apple iPad Yes 87
Apple Mail Yes 140
Yahoo! Yes Varies (web); 45–50 (mobile app)
Thunderbird No
AOL mail Yes 75
Android & Windows phones Yes 40
Blackberry No

4. What do I do about the fact that email clients all have different character limits?

Just look at these preview text email examples from my inbox and how the preview text length varies each time:

Every sender tried something different to handle varying email preview text length.

There are four recommended approaches to diverse character limits:

  1. Write the preview text in bite-sized chunks. If you write a long text, it can get cut off. anywhere by the different email clients. It’s better to string together many bite-sized chunks, separated by a symbol, such as | or – . See this technique in the image below. 
  2. Let it flow into the opening of the email. In the first email above, the preview text is short and it flows into the greeting. It states, “Read about the improved mobile apps and new summary reports Hey there! Here’s some of the stuff …” For this to work well, you have to remove any text in the actual preheader, such as “View in browser.” Also you might want to include a punctuation mark to signal the end of the preview text and the beginning of the email.
  3. Repeat stuff. In the third email above, you see that Facebook uses this tactic. Simply copy and paste the same text multiple times to fill in the space for varying character lengths.
  4. Insert a lot of blank space. Two of the emails above tried to do this. One succeeded, the other not so much. Look at the fourth email “Top Picks for Mara – Yin yoga restores energy and eases anxiety.” It has a nice clean look after its preview text. All that blank space actually draws your attention to that email. The second email tried it, too, but they didn’t insert enough blank space. This creates a random gap between the preview text “See an overview …” and the email greeting “Hi, Mara!”

Tip: “But how do I create blank space after the preview text,” you ask? Warning: Inserting blank space after the preview text is known as the “preview text hack.” Like all hacks, it has some drawbacks. There are several ways to do this, and none of them is foolproof. There will always be some email client that doesn’t display this properly. These preview text hacks revolve around inserting a long line of alternating zero-width nonjoiners with nonbreaking spaces. Whether you do it in HTML or in Unicode, some email clients will display the former as code and the latter as boxes. So you have to choose, based on your target groups’ email client preferences whether you want to use this hack.

Email preview text written in chunks

Email preview text written in chunks that can be cut off easily.

5. How do I edit the preview text in email with Brevo?

In Brevo, email campaigns are created in a few steps.

On Setup, you have the text previewer (see below) where to set the preview text as you want it. Then, you’ll create your design and add the email content in the Design step. 

setting up preview text in Brevo

Preview text in short

The preview text can help you boost your open rate. It’s best to use it to convey additional information that expands on the subject line, not information that completes it.

Preview text length ranges between 40 and 140 characters, depending on the email client recipients use. Look at your email stats to find out which are the most used by your email list to decide on your preview text length strategy.

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