Why Are Email Files so Large?

Email size is determined by much more than just the message

The average size of an email file is about 75 KB. That's around 7,000 words in plain text or about 37.5 pages. Unless you or your correspondents happen to be composing novel chapters in email messages, it's other behind-the-scenes factors that make these files so large.

Elements That Affect Email Size

The text of a message is just the tip of the email iceberg. Plenty of other factors contribute to the size of an email:

  • Formatting: Messages contain formatting information in addition to plain text.
  • Duplicate message: Rich text emails are often accompanied by a duplicate plain text version of the same message.
  • Large email files: Raising the average size of an email file are newsletters and marketing emails, which are often longer and bigger than other emails.
  • Attachments: Attachments also skew the average. Although some attachments are small, some can be 10 MB or larger.
  • In-message images: Photos, animations, and audio clips add to email file size. Animated GIFs are particularly large because every frame is essentially an image. The more frames the GIF has, the larger it is.
  • Headers: Header information that describes the email's route isn't visible, but it counts toward the size.
  • HTML: If the message uses HTML formatting, that takes up more space.
  • Quotations: In an email thread that goes back and forth, the same quoted material may appear several times.
Email on screen
Epoxydude / Getty Images

Why Size Matters

You don't need to worry about email size if you have a vast amount of storage space or you don't care how long it takes for your sent emails to load.

However, if you're in business and market your products by sending promotional emails, large emails take longer to load and require more bandwidth. Therefore, if you include large graphics, the recipient may delete your email before the graphics render. That timeframe may be a matter of seconds, but billions of emails are sent each day, so your marketing efforts have a lot of competition.

Some email clients won't display a lengthy email. For example, Gmail clips emails that are larger than 102 KB. It supplies readers a link if they want to view the complete email, but there's no guarantee your recipient will be willing to click it.

Large attachments and custom fonts are other add-ons that can make an email render slowly. It could be long enough for the recipient to click away.

Storage Limits for Email Clients

Most email providers have generous storage policies and methods to see how much space your storage allotment has remaining. Still, popular email providers have different size limits, such as those listed below:

  • Gmail accounts receive 15 GB of storage space, but that space is shared by Gmail, Google Drive, Google Photos, and all your Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, and Jamboard files. You can always upgrade to a paid subscription if you need more storage.
  • Yahoo Mail accounts come with 1 TB of storage. Yahoo claims this capacity can accommodate 6,000 years of inbox usage for the average user.
  • Free Outlook.com accounts come with 15 GB of email storage.
  • AOL offers 25 GB of storage for new messages, 100 GB of storage for old messages, and 100 GB for sent messages.
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