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Blind Carbon Copy (Bcc) a blessing and a curse, when do you use it?

by Tris Hussey on October 20th, 2006

To BCC or Not to BCC

This might be a tad overblown, but still lots of people don’t know when to Bcc and when not to.  Blind carbon copy is a very interesting e-mail thing.  Unlike Cc where everyone sees who has received the e-mail, with Bcc you only see the person in the To line (hint: for mass e-mails, it should be you).  In fact with most e-mail apps, even if you look in your own sent mail, you can’t tell who you sent the e-mail to.  The information who got what is just not there.

Now, Bcc has some good uses.  The most benign one is when you need to send an e-mail to a group of friends of yours about say an event, address change, or something and you want to respect the privacy of all recipients you put all the addresses in the Bcc field (in Outlook you need to go to the view menu and select Bcc to see it).  So in practical terms what this does is that when someone replies only you and not the whole group get it.  This is good because often those replied of "Thanks" or "Hey congrats" get really annoying.  Also it saves embarrassment if someone replied to all (by accident usually) and writes something that they probably shouldn’t have.  This is a Bcc blessing.

There is an exception, though.  I’m a part of a MindJet mailing list … it’s kinda like a brain trust.  Now, we all can see who is on the list and such.  Replies to all go to all.  This, seems to be cool with most folks.  In reality it’s easier to just set up a mailing list for that kind of thing, but hey.

Now the other use of Bcc is a CYA (cover your *ss) kind of thing.  You can Bcc someone on an e-mail as protection or proof or something, but this can be risky and come back to bite you on said posterior that you were trying to cover in the first place.  All I can say is use it with caution.  I’ve been a part of lots of bcc discussions and I don’t think anyone really had solid answers on the whole CYA thing.  It’s kinda like a tactic of last resort, especially the bcc recipient might not get the whole conversation, they certainly wouldn’t get replies until you reply and bcc again.  Again, caution is the watchword here.

So, what’s your best "shouldn’t have sent it Bcc" or "I wish is hadn’t hit reply to all" story?  We all have them … come on, pony up.

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POSTED IN: Staying Sane, Survival Skills, E-mail, Cube life, General work pimps

1 opinion for Blind Carbon Copy (Bcc) a blessing and a curse, when do you use it?

  • Des Walsh
    Oct 26, 2020 at 5:12 am

    Bcc is very handy and when I see the dreaded mass list in CC I realise that some otherwise well-meaning friend has just shared my email address with a lot of strangers, some of whom I might not, given the choice, wish to have it.

    Part of the problem however with BCC in a business context is that you typically get an email from John Smith to John Smith, ie it is and looks impersonal.

    But there are people we all want to connect with from time to time as groups but for whom a ‘confirmed opt-in’ on an autoresponder system would not be appropriate. My solution to that has been to buy Group Mail 5, a one off purchase from www.infacta.com (no, I have no deal with them), which enables me to build lists and send personalised messages to the sort of people I used to do the BCC number for.

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