Differences Between the Email Body and the Header

Each part of an email message has a specific function

Laptop with cord twisted into an envelope

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Similar to a piece of paper mail, an email message has two different parts. Learning more about these two parts of an email message can help you manage each of them better.

What Is the Difference Between an Email Header and Email Body?

When you think of traditional mail, the two parts are easy to see. With paper mail, there's (1) the envelope with the address, stamp, and postal information on it, and (2) the letter or other paperwork inside.

With email, it's actually quite similar; there are also two distinct parts that make up a single email message. There is (1) the header with control information and other data, and (2) the body of the message which includes the sender's text, as well as attachments and other components.

The Email Header Section

The header section of an email message acts much like the envelope of a written letter. This section contains information about the sender, the recipient, and the email's route to get to the recipient's inbox. It also includes several necessary authentication details. The header always precedes the body of an email.

Only a portion of the header appears in an email message. The rest of the header is hidden. The portions of the header that normally display include the date, sender and recipient information, and subject. Items such as the server path, return path, originating IP address, or spam information aren't seen in the message. View these items to get a better understanding of the journey an email message followed to get to your inbox.

The Email Body Section

The body of an email message is essentially the letter inside of the envelope. Consider how you read a letter you receive in the postal mail: you open the envelope and unfold the paper to view the contents of the message.

Similarly, once a recipient opens an email message, the email body section is displayed in its entirety. Separate from the header, the body is a freeform field where you insert as much text as you want, and add supporting links, images, or attachments (though attachments are usually displayed separately).

When you send an email message, you're not limited in terms of how much text you can use. However, email servers do have limits on how big a message they will accept. Common maximum sizes for email bodies, including attachments, are 10 MB to 25 MB.