Yet another rant about Bcc:s

I just got an email addressed to no less than 78 people, and all 78 people’s email addresses were in the To field. You’d think the sender would put all our emails in the Bcc field since, well, the recipients don’t really need to know the emails of the other 77 people who got the email. (In its defense, putting all the emails in the To field makes stalking easier, but isn’t that what Facebook’s for?)

I can understand why Cc isn’t that popular: it does the same thing as To, except it carries a different semantic meaning. Most teenagers (and a bunch of adults too) couldn’t care less about the fancy schmancy semantic meaning, so they just use To.

But Bcc is there for a few reasons:

  1. Don’t reveal the email addresses of all the recipients.
  2. Don’t let the recipient know that someone else has received a copy of the email.
  3. Let you send an email to many people but make it seem to each recipient that they’re the only one getting the email.
  4. Avoid the long list of emails at the top of an email message. (Some email clients will show at the top of the message who’s in the To field. If you have 78 people in the To field, that’s an awfully long header.)

And yet, no one uses it. Point #3 isn’t that big (when do you use it?), I’ll give you that. Point #2 isn’t used that often except for being sneaky. But Point #1, that’s big. Everyone sends emails to multiple people. It’s not always a good idea to give out the email addresses of the recipients, especially when you’re sending the email to a group of people who may not know each other. Point #4 isn’t crucial but it’s very important as well; no one likes scrolling through an inordinately long list of email addresses.

So what am I getting at? When you email many people, use Bcc. When you’re just emailing a few friends you can put all their names in the To field, but in some cases you should definitely use Bcc. Some examples:

  • You’re sending a newsletter to your mailing list.
  • You’re telling all the members of your club that you won’t meet this week.
  • You’re the coach of a Little League team and you’re emailing all the parents.
  • You’re a school district and you’re telling everyone that school’s closed.

I remember that my old soccer coach didn’t use Bcc, and neither do any leaders of the clubs I’m in. Thankfully my school district has been smart enough to not show 2000 people’s email addresses to the recipients (that would be a nightmare.)

If you took the time to read this rant, then thanks. And also, make sure you use the Bcc field whenever you feel necessary.

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Neel Mehta

Harvard College. Web developer. Sometime philosopher. Baseball junkie.

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