Funny unintended strikethrough in a HTML e-mail

I'm subscribed to a newsletter from Realistic Religious Zionism. In the last e-mail I got, there was a strikethrough styling in the middle of the text. At first, I thought it is some kind of a correction, but then I noticed it continued to the end of the e-mail, so I realized this was some sort of a bug.

Out of curiosity, I viewed the HTML mail source, but this was cluttered with many formatted <p>s and <span>s, so I couldn't find anything there. In particular, I didn't find the text "strike" in the text.

I saved it as an HTML file and opened it in Firefox, and the problem still existed, so I tried checking it with Firebug and saw that when the problem started, an <s> element was defined with a pan attribute. I tried to look for an "<s " in the source to find out where it is defined, but couldn't find it either.

So, having no other choice, I looked for the location of the problem in the source. This was a bit problematic since it was a mixture of an English markup and a Hebrew text. When I nailed it down, I realized what the problem is. It appears that the mail text is cut every 1048 characters, and a new line is entered. Normally, this is not a problem, since white-spaces don't count in HTML. But when it occurs in the middle of a <span> tag definition, it renders an <s> tag with a pan attribute. I didn't know that, but <s> HTML tag can be used as the <strike> tag to specify stricken-through text (BTW, both tags are deprecated by the HTML standard and the CSS alternative is encouraged). Since the <span> tag definition was truncated with a new-line after the "<s", it was considered as the definition of an <s> tag, which wasn't really closed, so it lasted till the end of the e-mail.

This problem of cutting HTML in the middle is not mentioned in the list of problems with HTML e-mails. I guess the simplest solution is just to make every HTML markup in a new line. This makes the e-mail a bit longer, but avoids such problems. However, I guess they are using some rich text editor that generates this HTML e-mail, so I don't really know what can be done with that tool.


3 Responses to “Funny unintended strikethrough in a HTML e-mail”

  1. D.J. de Groot Says:


    Encountered same problem and found your problem description; thx for that. otherwise i wouldn’t have quickly understood the problem.

    Rgds, DJ

  2. D.J. de Groot Says:

    I think this might help,

    in the head section of the html mail add this

    s {text-decoration:none;}

    (or if you have a style sheet, put it there)

    Hopefully this will help.

    Rgds, D.J.

  3. phrenseed Says:

    Dear Splint. I felt very grown up reading your clearly written instructions. Thank you for being such a good detective and not talking down to your readers.

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