A guide to using unicode in email

I ❤ using unicode characters in emails.

As I’m sure you’re aware some email clients don’t load images by default. But with unicode you can give you a reliable image of a basic icon, something like a ★ or a ❤ that you know will load. You can even use them as alt text with some clients.


There are two ways to insert a unicode character. Directly inserting it, done by copying and pasting or using the shortcut keys (if you know them) which will look like this in your code or via an HTML element which looks like this ❤. From my tests it looks like support is the same for both techniques.

All email clients I’ve tested support some unicode characters. But none of them support all characters.

I was hoping to try and give some logic as to what characters are supported in which clients but it looks to be pretty random. Sorry.

I’d say pick your characters and run some tests.


You can style unicode characters the same way you style fonts. This works for the most part however some clients (outlook.com, iOS, Apple mail) override this on certain characters and turn your unicode into emojis.

Generally speaking emoji’s look better however you do lose control of the styling.


In this screen shot from an iPad, I’ve styled all the characters style="font-size:50px; color:red;" but you can see the size and colour of the Emoji characters isn’t affected.

The Emoji’s in Outlook.com are images so you can change the size of these with CSS however they are generally pretty small gif’s so best to only scale down or leave alone.

I’ve not yet found a way to control Emoji’s on Apple devices, I’ll try and look at this more if I can get my hands on an iPhone.

I think it would be best to find an option to override these characters turning into Emoji so I can get some consistency between clients.

Unicode in subject lines

Again, pretty well supported and can draw attention to your email. The Emoji styling mentioned above can come through here too and can add a little colour and style to the inbox.


I have heard unicode can get your emails marked as spam. Spammers try to stop words being detected by replacing letters with unicode characters. My speciality is not deliverability, so if you’re worried about this I’d suggest doing some more research. If anyone has more info on this please let me know.


This website is great for finding characters

Here’s a list of emoji characters on iOS