What is preview text?

What is preview text?

Your from name is sorted. You're crafting an amazing subject line. Your preview text... wait, what is preview text? Let's talk about one of the most overlooked email marketing features out there (especially amongst small businesses)...

Recipients are busy. Their inboxes are overflowing. They're constantly distracted by notifications from apps, online advertising & real-time personal communications. Breaking through the noise, getting their attention & convincing them to open your email isn't easy.

Using preview text can help.


Preview text is the line of text that appears in your inbox after an email's from name & subject line. You can use it to convince recipients that your email is the one that they need to open.

Visible on desktop & mobile devices, preview text displays in all major email clients (i.e. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.).

Preview text on mobile

Preview text on mobile device

Preview text on desktop

Here, we see the same emails as shown in the example above. This time, we're seeing them as we would if we had logged into our inbox on a desktop or laptop. Rather than appearing below the from name & subject line, preview text displays directly after the subject line, in a lighter font.

Preview text on desktop


Preview text comes directly from your email template. To control what displays in this section, marketers use what is called preheader text. This is added to the very top of an email template, before the 'view in browser' link. If you use an email service provider like Mailchimp, it's even easier to add - all you need to do is fill in the preview text box before sending.

The images below show how Secret Escapes uses preview text. As you can see, the preview text in inbox view (top image) matches the very first line of text in the email template (bottom image).

Preview text on desktop

secret escapes email preheader text

When you look at Wordery's email template, you'll notice that the preview text shown in inbox view (first image, below) is invisible when you view the email template (second image, below). The brand's marketers have decided to hide it. So, We've just lowered the price on thousands of books is visible as preview text, but on the email itself, you can only see text that begins at View in browser.

wordery preview text

wordery email example

On both examples, after the marketers' preheader text, you'll notice some additional detail: - view this email online Secret appears at the end of Secret Escapes' preview text & View in browser Fiction Books in Wordery's. These extra words don't add any value, so why have they been included?

Remember, preview text is automatically pulled from your email template, from top to bottom. If preheader text is available, it will be shown as preview text in inbox view. If there's room left after your preheader text is inserted, your email client (I'm using Gmail for this example) will pull even more text from your email & display it. That's why you see additional detail that doesn't seem to make much sense in the Secret Escapes & Wordery examples.

Now, this doesn't mean that you should write a paragraph of preheader text. Each email client has its own layout & character limit. Write too much text & it will be cut off when that limit is met. So, keep your preheader short & to the point & don't forget that even less text can be seen on mobile devices.

It's worth noting that there's a hack to prevent email clients like Gmail from adding extra words to your preview text. That's beyond the scope of this post - keep your eyes peeled for more details.


When you forget to include any preheader text, the email clients that your subscribers are using will decide what to add for you. This email campaign from The Telegraph highlights the issue perfectly. As you can see from the inbox view example (first image, below), Gmail pulls Trouble seeing this email? | Unsubscribe Date November 6. This comes directly from the circled text shown on the email template (second image, below). These words don't tell the reader anything about the email's content & they definitely don't provide an encouraging call to action.

Telegraph preheader text

Telegraph email example

The real shame here is that the Telegraph has missed out on the benefits that preview text can bring, the main one being an increased open rate.

NOTE: the text that appears on top of the blue image can't be read by Gmail, therefore it isn't displayed in preview text. This is simply because email clients don't see images like we do.


Just like from names & subject lines, preview text matters. When combined, the three features give you more ways to influence email opens.

It doesn't matter if your preview text displays in your email or is hidden from sight; it's simply more 'advertising' space that you can use in people's inboxes for free.

Comments 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.