I work as a contractor for a few different agencies and as such receive lots of instructions by email. Some emails are extremely stylized and formatted, containing things like red text, bold and italic, text in the middle, highlighting, lots of headings etc. I find this makes it really hard to follow the instructions (and due to the nature of the work often times I must quickly read this on a smartphone).

How can I ask people to keep emails short and sweet and to the point, and not look like an art piece or puzzle?

With the way I get paid, I don't get paid for reading the instructions but doing the actual work. So I don't really like spending 15+ minutes trying to decipher and email when I'm not paid for it. (though if an email is taking that long there probably are other problems but fixing the formatting is good start)

  • reply in as brief a way as possible: four words: "plain text only please"
    – Fattie
    Jan 19, 2019 at 15:58

2 Answers 2


Hey Bob,
since I'm often in the field I have to read everything on my phone and it messes up showing your emails.
Could you please send me plain,concise text for this thing.
Thank you so much!

It's the phones fault, not yours or his.

However, there should be a setting in your phone/ app to view emails as plain text.
Have a go at it first and see if that works for you instead.


If the goal is to get critical instructions via email that will be read in plain text then that is what you should ask for. Don't rely on the phone app to do the reformatting, it just hides the pretty features, it doesn't make sure their purpose still gets across.

If I know they will be reading it in plain text, then that is how I construct it. I don't want somebody who needs to see it without formatting to miss something important because the fancy HTML version of the email hides the emphasis when it is reformatted into plain text.

If you are getting instructions from one two people you could talk to them, or include the request for a simple email in your request to them.

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