E-Mail Etiquette : Using Bcc Instead Of Cc


How many times has it ever happened to you? Dozens, hundreds or thousands of times? You receive an e-mail from a computer user and you see fifty e-mail addresses in the Cc field. Both experienced and non-experienced computer users alike are guilty of the crime. They don't understand the importance of using the Bcc field instead of the Cc field when sending an e-mail message out to multiple recipients.

Those links to silly videos and funny photos are fine and dandy to send out to all of your friends but it's just downright annoying to know that your e-mail address is publicly displayed to fifty other people every time someone reads the message. Think about it for a moment, Joe. How would you feel if we put up a huge sign with great big letters out on our front lawn reading something like this: "E-mail Joe at joe@joes-domain.com"? This isn't much different than using the Cc field when you send out that video link of the talking cat to fifty of your friends.

Why use Bcc instead of Cc? First of all, let's look at what these two abbreviations mean. When you "Cc" a message, you send a carbon copy of the message to everyone included in the Cc field. This means that everyone who receives the message also sees the e-mail addresses of everyone else the message was sent to. When you "Bcc" a message, this means blind carbon copy which in turn, means that nobody else sees the e-mail addresses of the other recipients at all (what they usually see is "undisclosed recipients"). That's the proper way of doing it. The "polite" way of e-mailing photos of your dog wearing a party hat and a pink sweater to dozens of people all in one clean sweep.

The worst part of using Cc instead of Bcc can be summed up in one plain and simple ugly old word we've all come to detest — spam. Do you want spam and junk mail sent to your e-mail account and to all of your friends' e-mail accounts? If so, then just step right up to your computer and keep on cutting and pasting those fifty e-mail addresses into the Cc field of your messages. But if you want to pay attention to what we call e-mail etiquette and use a bit of respect when sending out that cute photo of your 6-week old kitten who just finished chewing on your big toe (true story here — that's one of our kittens in the above photo), then here's what you need to consider:

1) If just one person out of the fifty people you e-mailed the photo of your kitten to has a virus or worm on their computer which was designed to harvest e-mail addresses for spam purposes, chances are that every single one of the fifty people you e-mailed will eventually begin receiving junk mail. Remember that not everyone uses anti-virus software and even those who do use virus protection don't always update their virus definitions on a regular basis. Congratulations. Your kitten is now responsible for all of the junk mail we're receiving!

2) Many new computer users don't even realize that their e-mail software actually has a Bcc field. This is because the field is almost always hidden by default. They can't see it so they don't use it. But even when they do happen to find it, they don't know what it's for. And sometimes, they just "plain old" don't understand what they're doing!

3) Please consider the privacy of others. Nobody likes to see their e-mail address exposed to the general public.

4) Quite often, people don't even bother using the Cc field. They just load up the To field instead. Either way, you're still guilty. All e-mail software has a To field, a Cc field and a Bcc field even though the Bcc field is often hidden as noted above (Apple's Mail application is a good example — you won't see the Bcc field unless you click on the "Customize" menu inside of your e-mail message).

5) When you load up the To or Cc field, all of your recipients may receive unwanted replies to your message unless the person sending a reply is knowledgeable enough to remove their e-mail addresses before replying (note that this seldom happens because quite often, the Cc field isn't completely visible — the Cc field is often shortened or abbreviated as shown in the above screenshot).

6) Using Cc isn't always necessarily a bad thing. There are times when you want others to see all of the recipients your message was sent to (ie: for business and legal purposes). Unfortunately, for the majority of recreational users, using Cc just isn't a good thing to do when sending the exact same message out to dozens of people.

7) When you finally learn how to properly use the Bcc field, cut and paste your fifty friends into the Bcc field and then simply type your own e-mail address into the To field (in other words, send yourself a copy of the message). This ensures that nobody in your list sees anyone else's e-mail address other than your own.

Now that we've learned a little bit about e-mail etiquette, just how do you go about using Bcc in your e-mail software? Exactly where can you find the Bcc field? Since every e-mail application (or e-mail "client") is different, below are help links for a few of the more popular ones. We've also included Eudora 6 since many Mac users still use the application to this day:

If you use a different e-mail software application or a web-based interface for sending and receiving e-mail, consult your help system for instructions on how to use the Bcc field.

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