Don't use BCC

First, what is BCC?

Why you shouldn't use BCC when you email groups of people.

* If I receive mail sent to "undisclosed-recipients", I assume the worst: that you are sending something to as many people as you can, and you don't want me to know that. I immediately think that whatever the correspondence is, it is for your benefit, not mine. This is also known as spam.

(note: this first point also applies when a mail is sent just to me, but the message is clearly a form-mail, e.g. it starts with "Dear ,"

* If you're inviting me to something via email and I see it is sent to "undisclosed-recipients", I assume the worst: that you are only inviting the lamest of people (plus me) and your event will ultimately suck. Not something I'm likely to attend.

* If you are making a legitimate announcement to a group of people, you should be sending this to a mailing list, not using BCC. When I receive you message, it will look like this:
From: the secretary
To: list-of-selected-cool-people@exmple.com
Subj: Pool

The pool will be opening today, come check it out.


However, if you BCC the message, this is how I will read it:
From: the secretary
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subj: Pool

The pool will be opening today, come check it out.
P.S. I'm sending this email to everyone in the world. By the time you get to the pool, all the kids will have already peed in it.


* What if you really think your message is meant for the public at large? Don't use BCC? use mailing lists. Consider the correct way to do it:
From: the secretary
To: marketing.dept@exmple.com, sales.dept@exmple.com, hr.dept@exmple.com
Subj: social

There will be an office social event on Friday, BYOB.


And this is how your message is read if you use BCC.
From: the secretary
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subj: social

There will be an office social event on Friday, BYOB.
P.S. this message was only sent to people we think are alcoholics, if you show up with booze, you will be fired.


The only time BCC is appropriate is when forwarding the message makes it funny for the bcc'ed party:
From: man
To: wife
Bcc: mygirlfriend@example.com
Subj: divorce

Wife, i'm done with you!


However, see how much funnier this is when you avoid BCC:
From: man
To: wife
Cc: mygirlfriend@example.com
Subj: divorce

Wife, i'm done with you!

Comments

chris said…
What about this case:
You need to send an email to a single person, it is only relevant to them. However, in response to the message, the recipient is likely to a) respond to sender, or b) call a third party for further clarification.

Third party is not interested in the topic of the email, and only becomes interested if recipient follows up with him instead of reply. This is a case where third party should be BCC rather than CC, since they should have no interest in the email.
Will Entriken said…
If the third party is not interested, why are they getting the message?
chris said…
Imagine a manager. If all is going well, they don't need to read all the interim details. If something is not going well, they will want to go back and read details before responding poorly.
Will Entriken said…
this is how i'd read the first email:

from: coworker_a
to: me
subj: work

please do this work

this is how i'd read the second:

from: coworker_a
to: me
cc: boss
subj: work

please do this work
ps, big brother is watching


which effect would you rather your message have?
Will Entriken said…
I've also seen the excuse: use BCC so you'll get less spam.

Here is my reply: what is spam?

Do you know that gmail came out in 2004 and I haven't gotten spam since?
Will Entriken said…
I will concede one occasion where BCC is appropriate:

--------
From: Warren Buffet
To: Candidate A, Candidate B, Candidate C, Candidate D
Subj: Succession

Dear Applicant,
Congratulations, I have chosen a list of candidates to succeed me, which includes you. A candidate which is still alive by the time I am unable to run Berkshire Hathaway will be chosen at random.

Sincerely,
WB
--------

When you need to protect your recipients' identities (not just because of spam, R.I.P. 2004) you should explicitly describe the nature and quantity of the recipient list.

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