iPhone Tip – Message cannot be displayed because of the way it is formatted

Here is an iPhone Email Tip that will hopefully save you some frustration:

When reading your email with your iPhone, have you ever got the following message?

"This message cannot be displayed because of the way it is formatted. Ask the sender to send it again using a different format or email program. Multipart/Alternative"

If this happens to you, you can work around the problem by first deleting your message. Then go find the message in your trash and move the message back to your in-box. You should now be able to read the message properly.

Apparently this was an issue with iOS 3. It was fixed in iOS 4. Unfortunately the bug seems to be back again in iOS 5.


Comments

iPhone Tip – Message cannot be displayed because of the way it is formatted — 24 Comments

  1. This has happened to me so many times and I just deleted the emails. I just received a store receipt and really needed to see it. Thank you so much for having this very helpful information.

  2. It did not work.. The message “This message cannot be displayed because of the way it is formatted. Ask the sender to send it again using a different format or email program. multipart/alternative” did disappear and I was left with
    ” –_———-=_MCPart_1442483610–“…

    Now what should I do? I’ve rebooted my iPhone, I’ve “cold” rebooted and it still happening….

    Help?

  3. I tried the instruction that suggested moving it to the trash and then back to in box and does not work. This problem started after I started having trouble receiving or sending emails from my iPhone and it was suggested to delete email account on iPhone and then add email account using imap instead of pop3. So my question is. Is imap configuration causing this problem. Have the exact problem with my wife’s iPhone as well and also re-added the email account using imap.

    • Thanks for the great question Rick.

      IMAP messages actually stored on the server, not on your iPhone. If you don’t have a data plan, you won’t be able to see your messages when you are not connected over WiFi. If that is your case and you want your messages to always be available on your iPhone, use POP3 instead. You may not get new messages when you are away from WiFi but at least you won’t loose the ones you had received.

      Bonus Tip

      Keep in mind that POP3 may be configured to remove email from the server after it has been downloaded to your phone. If that is the case, you would no longer see messages using other methods such as web browser or email client. By configuring your phone to leave messages on the server, your messages will be available everywhere. If you have concerns about your phone getting filled up with email, just tell it to keep the most recent XX days of email. I have mine set to 90 days. If you are using an email client, you’ll need to tell it to do the same so that it doesn’t go removing emails before your phone gets a chance at downloading them.

      Hope this helps.

      Best regards,

      Michael

    • It just happened after updating my iPad overnight on 11-3-2020. The message does not appear in any other mailbox including trash. Very frustrating. I sent it as a copy to myself using the same iPad. Makes no sense?

  4. Thanks so much for for the tip! I am going to have this email saved for myself for future. I am just so grateful for little tips like these!!!!

  5. For the first time ever, after updating to iOS 11.2.6 on iPhone 7. ALL my emails give me this notice. So are you saying I have to correct every single one of these emails to be able to read it? That’s crazy. Thank you for any suggestions.

  6. I deleted it, but it’s not in my trash. This was a message that I originally sent. Any ideas how to retrieve it? Thanks!

  7. This just happened to me fir the first time. IOS 14.0.1. Message shows up on iPhone but not iPad. Also displayed on desktop with Windows 10 and Outlook.

  8. My ipad Pro started having this problem after the ios 14 updates. Your workaround took care of the problem- thanks!

  9. Happens since update from 13.x to 14.2
    My Mail is config to Bcc myself
    Create new email
    Send to friend
    I get a copy in my inbox and it is in my sent box
    In both places the content cannot be read
    Replaced by the message cited above with a blank line then a line that says

    text/plain

    It appears to happen ONLY for emails that I create and ONLY if there is no attachment
    If I attach a photo or even an Avatar the problem does not happen. Note that by including an image (photo or avatar) the message is no longer plain text. This seems to be key.
    The problems does not always happen when I reply to a plain text message.

  10. Apple’s Mail app has been buggy for quite a while now, actually. One other bug is that it keeps automatically fetching e-mails even when it is set to “Manually” in Settings.

    Anyway, I noticed this “message cannot be displayed” issue as well, basically only on e-mails that I send to myself from my iPhone or iPad. The bug is still present in iOS / iPad OS 14.4.

    When you send an e-mail to yourself via the Mail app, you essentially end up with 2 copies of this e-mail. One arrives into your “Inbox” folder and the other copy stays in your “Sent” folder. The Mail app doesn’t seem to correctly switch between the two copies when tapping between them. This might be what is contributing to the randomness of the e-mail being “readable” or “bad”.

    Anyway, here’s what I found out in my testing (it gets a bit complex):

    After you send yourself an e-mail from the Mail app, whether the received e-mail is “readable” or “bad” depends on where you open it first.

    1- If you tap on the e-mail in the Inbox folder first, it will be random (so it seems).

    If it is “bad” in Inbox, the copy in Sent is also “bad”. If you delete the copy in Sent, the one in Inbox will become “readable”.
    If it is “readable” in Inbox, the copy in Sent is also “readable”. If you delete the copy in Sent, the one in Inbox remains “readable”.

    2- If you tap on the e-mail in the Sent folder first, it will always (so it seems) be “readable”. If you then tap on it in the Inbox folder, it will be “readable” there as well.

    If you delete it from Inbox, the copy in Sent will become “bad”.
    If you delete it from Sent, the copy in Inbox will remain “readable”.

    So basically the bottom line is this:

    If you send an e-mail to yourself and it ends up showing “message cannot be displayed” when you open it in Inbox, go to the Sent folder and delete the copy in there. That should make the one in Inbox readable.

  11. This happen to me on an email I created and bcc myself through a forwarded Acct. Delete and restore worked. Ios14 on iPhone XR MARCH 2021!

  12. “This message cannot be displayed because of the way it is formatted. Ask the sender to send it again using a different format or email program.

    I have had this same problem for over a year.

    I would have hoped Apple would have put more effort into fixing bugs than providing new features!

    Everytime I upgrade the IOS I look forward to the problem being solved, but obviously their level of expertise is not high enough!

  13. Often happens to email I wrote and is now in my “Sent” folder. The text is completely readable in the list. I tried moving it to Trash and when it is in there it does not give the error message. When I move it back to “sent” I get the same old error message .

    This started with iOS 14 on my iPad 6th generation. Never happened before iOS 14. Too bad Apple has let this go on so long.

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