Warnings about not sending attachments to mailing lists are valid. However, sending an attached PDF file can provide benefits which outweigh the cautions, especially if you carefully monitor the size of the PDF and keep it reasonable.

Advantages of sending PDF attachments

  • Replies to your mailing are smaller because they do not include the PDF.
  • A PDF file can include images and unusual fonts if desired.
  • The PDF file can be printed and will retain all its formatting.
  • The PDF file can be uploaded/archived to a web site.
  • The PDF can be forwarded to others and will retain its format.
  • The PDF can be archived for future reference.
  • The PDF cannot be easily edited.

Disadvantages of sending PDF attachments

  • Preparation is slightly more complex.
  • Recipients must have PDF-reader software installed.
  • Recipients need to click to open the attachment.
  • It's possible to send the mailing and forget the attachment!

One hybrid approach is to upload the PDF to an online storage site (like Dropbox), then email ONLY THAT LINK, perhaps with a text-only summary in your email. That way recipients can click and download/view the PDF only if/when desired, not being forced to receive a potentially large PDF file in their inbox. For example, here is a variation I recently gave one user:

  • Create the newsletter in a PDF.
  • Post that PDF on your web site.
  • In your email newsletter, insert a 'grabber' image, different for each message, which is linked to the PDF on the web site. The reader can click anywhere on that image and be taken to the PDF on your web site. I think you could link directly to the PDF, and it would open in most folks browser automatically.
  • Insert a "text only" paragraph below the image, including important links. But this would only be an executive summary, not the entire newsletter. Be sure to include an obvious link to the web site here too, in case this section is simply copied/pasted elsewhere.
  • Expend some effort on each email subject line. That more than anything gets folks to open the email and then take further action.


  • PDF is the only vehicle which maintains the format regardless of the reader's device.
  • PDF can be easily printed.
  • PDF can be emailed to specific individuals if necessary, but sending only the link to it
  • Web page statistics programs are much more accurate than email open-rate measurements. They can provide more accurate info about who read and how long.
  • The email can be prepared in your email client and doesn't include an attachment.
  • The email can be forwarded without breaking the message (most fancy HTML messages can't be readily forwarded).


  • The reader must be online in order to click from the email to the web site. But if they just downloaded the email, they must be online.
  • The reader must figure out how to save the PDF locally if they want it locally. It's not hard, but the average computer user might have difficulty the first time. (If you think that's an issue, provide download instructions on the web page.)