Outlook Hates Line Breaks

If you’ve ever wondered why your plain text email message is randomly ignoring line breaks like n or rn then you’re not alone. I regularly use PHPMailer to send off automated emails and usually in plain text to keep it simple.

What Outlook 2003 (and 2002 and 2007 versions apparently) likes to do is be super helpful and remove what it regards as extra line breaks. It won’t be consistent either within a single mail or across many but it will make the content difficult to read. What you thought would be new lines will now be joined up in places and it seems to happen more often the further through the content you go.

There don’t seem to be many fixes for this issue but there are a few work arounds to help out.

  1. Turn off this “feature” in Outlook in the Tools»Options menu. Honestly I’m not sure what use it is anyway. Unfortunately you’d have to do this on all the recipient’s computers.
  2. Use HTML in your email rather than plain text. Depending on your content and need for complete accuracy, perhaps more time than it’s worth.
  3. Add twice the number of line breaks where you currently have them. This seems to help but now your email is rather full of white space and may be more difficult to read.

Other than changing email clients, which is pretty unlikely, that’s about it. If you know of other options to try and get Outlook to not remove line breaks, please leave a comment below. This Microsoft KB article explains which versions of Outlook are affected http://support.microsoft.com/kb/287816.

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