I'm using Mail.app.

Often times I would write on reply emails typed in foreign language (Chinese, Japanese), and the receiver will see garbled text (e.g. a bunch of ??? or squares).

The way I solve the problem is: before sending each of these reply email, I go to "Message" -> "Text Encoding" -> select "Unicode *UTF-8*". But as soon as the email is sent, text encoding is set back to "Automatic". On my next email, I have to set the text encoding again to UTF-8.

This is annoying. Is there a way to set UTF-8 as default text-encoding, and not Automatic?

3 Answers 3


One way to ensure all your email goes out as UTF-8 is to include a Unicode dingbat or similar character in every message, as part of your signature or otherwise.

  • What is a unicode "dingbat"? what is a "dingbat"?
    – KMC
    Sep 21, 2011 at 9:04

Open Terminal.app and type:

defaults write com.apple.mail NSPreferredMailCharset "UTF-8"

If it does not work, you can revert by using

defaults delete com.apple.mail NSPreferredMailCharset
  • no, it doesn't work. Tried both, and back and forth, and it's still showing "Automatic"!!
    – KMC
    Jun 3, 2011 at 10:45
  • Did you try to send an email? It didn't change the value on my computer either, but it might still work. Jun 3, 2011 at 11:10
  • no it still doesn't work. a pile of squres and ?? still..
    – KMC
    Jun 25, 2011 at 4:30
  • 1
    This does not work with the last version of Mail.app (as release in Mac OS X Lion 10.7.1). Unfortunately ... Aug 29, 2011 at 20:53
  • works in Max OS X Mavericks 10.9.1
    – wobmene
    Jan 6, 2014 at 14:55

It's really odd there is no "standard"/"normal" way to set the default encoding to a user's choice.

By adding a Unicode dingbat character in a signature is more like a trick. The terminal command solution is not working. Even if it's working, it's very odd for a user to set something like this.

I can't believe Apple lets this happen.

It's the most annoying thing after I changed to use Mac. I have to choose the encoding every time I send an email. How ridiculous!

  • Does the email you are replying to have an encoding?
    – mmmmmm
    Oct 4, 2013 at 18:04

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