HTML email encoding is a different animal as opposed to a web page or an application. In my applications and web sites, I recommend using the latest HTML standards set forth by the W3C, but for an email template I recommend using a much older standard, such as HTML 4.0 Transitional.
The reason for this is most email clients cannot support newer standards. These clients do not seem to be getting updated to handle later standards even on newer versions of the email clients. Thus it is necessary to use old school HTML with inline css and tables for the structure of the layout.
Using these techniques allows the email to render as expected on a wide range of email services and clients.
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