Email is a very useful tool. Like any tool, there are right ways to use it, and wrong ways to use it. There are a few common etiquette mistakes that lots of people make using email, and I’m going to talk about one of the biggest: How to properly address email to a group of people.
If you have a list of people to whom you need to send an email, most people naturally just keep adding addresses to the To: field of the email. That certainly will get the email to the list of recipients, but in the process, you are giving everyone on the list everyone else’s address. This is similar to handing out a list of people’s mobile phone numbers. A lot of people don’t mind a bit, some people will be slightly annoyed, and some will view it as a breach of trust and an invasion of privacy.
Happily, there is a simple but effective remedy for this issue. There are actually three different ways to get an email into someone’s inbox. The simple To: is well known, but there are two more lesser-known fields that are very similar: CC: and BCC:.
CC: stands for Carbon Copy. The intended use of this field is to indicate that this particular list of recipients are not the primary addressees, but that they are intended to witness this communication to the ones directly addressed in the To: field.
BCC: stands for Blind Carbon Copy, and is the remedy for the problem mentioned above. Blind carbon copy recipients’ email addresses are removed from the email as each copy is made. This allows you, for example, to send an email to a group of addresses without everyone seeing the whole list of addressees. If you put your own address in the To: field, and then add the group of addresses to the BCC: field, then each person in that BCC: field will receive a copy of the email. It will be addressed to you, and there will not be a long list of everyone’s email addresses cluttering up the email body. It will also avoid the possibility of annoying some of those recipients by disclosing the personal contact information that they entrusted to you.
How to add BCC: recipients to your email message differs depending on what email program you use. Here are some links (courtesy of about.com) that will help you find the BCC: field in your particular email program:
- Outlook: How to Add Bcc Recipients
- AOL: How to Add Bcc Recipients to an Email
- Mac OS X Mail: Add Bcc Recipients
- Gmail: Add Bcc Recipients
- Windows Live Hotmail: Add a Bcc: Recipient to a Message
- Yahoo! Mail: Add Bcc: recipients to an email
Hope that helps! Happy emailing!
P.S. In the same way, group texting can be bothersome when someone gives out your number to a large group. Try to avoid including people in large group texts if you don’t know for sure they are comfortable sharing their number openly. Unfortunately, there’s no BCC for texting, but there are some group texting services available. Google “group sms” for ideas.