Blog, not BCC

A friend of mine recently got hired to create an adult evening class on email etiquette. Always interested in offering my thoughts, I offered this suggestion for a rule of email ettiquette:

Do not include someone on a BCC list unless you are regularly sending them personal emails and the topic of your BCCed email is something they are DIRECTLY interested in.

Doing otherwise comes off to many people as if you are SPAMMING them. It feels impersonal. It can also be a nuisance to some people. They may not complain because they don’t want to risk damaging their relationship with you.

There are good alternatives.

You can address the email directly to the person. You can add a line at the top explaining that you thought the subject might interest him/her. You can use his/her name in that introductory line. This method has a personal touch. This method will make person will feel as if you are making an effort to stay in touch and be their friend.

If the alternative above is too much work you can set up a blog. Blogs are made for people who regularly want to tell people about what is on their mind. Blogs are free. Blogs are easy. If you can set up and use a web based email account, you will not have any trouble using a blog. Blogs are that easy. Blogs also come with RSS ( Really Simple Syndication ) built in. RSS updates people when a blog they subscribe to is updated. They can choose to see these updates in an RSS reader. They can also get these updates on a web page like their MSN, Google, or MyYahoo account pages. The important point is that with RSS they see updates of your thoughts when they choose to see them, not when you BCC them.

Blogs have the added benefit of making your insights available to the whole world as they will be published on the web. If you want something more private you can get a blog through a free service like where you can set who sees and who does not see your posts.

I’m not criticizing anyone with this post. I used to be a bit compulsive with BCC lists myself. Luckily I had some brave and tactful friends educate me to the fact such emails are not always appreciated.

If you are regularly in contact with a person and write on subjects that are of direct interest to them you are fine. If not, one of the two alternatives above will turn what feels like a spam into what feels like a warm gesture to stay in touch and preserve a friendship.

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13 thoughts on “Blog, not BCC”

  1. An email thing that also pissed me off is consistently spelling someone’s name wrong, even if you have their name as part of the tag along with their email address. I have been getting a few emails in the past days with an “i” in the middle of my name where there should be an “e”, and I even spell my name correctly at the end of my email- grr!

  2. One of my work colleagues always spells my first name wrong. It is indeed irritating.

    Is this class mostly for social email, or for professional email too? My landlord and I were talking about some of this stuff the other night. When you’re writing to someone at a university, do you address them as “Dr.” or as “Mr.”/”Ms.” if you’re not sure if they have a PhD? At what point do you address someone you don’t know well by their first name? And, most importantly, when someone is repeatedly ignoring your emails, what’s the best way to get their attention?

  3. I get on my former students’ email lists ALL the time about their stupid shit…

    Stupid email hoaxes and urban legends….and crap about patterns in the bible that “are miracles” or prove that it’s “the word of holy god jeebus”. Lot’s of the time they’re mathematical patterns that are just plain FALSE.

    I debunk the myths, tell them I don’t appreciate the emails and ask to get off the list. Sometimes that doesn’t work, so I create a filter that sends their messages to trash.

    And it’s not the bad kids, it’s the good ones…. Geez, it makes me sad to think future generations are uneducated and gullible enough to believe some of this shit…


  4. Sadly they pull this shit after I submit their final grade. If they did that while in my course, I’d bet I could get away with a lot more than deducting quiz points…


  5. Pondering Willow;

    Maybe a taste of their own medicine might might them understand what it is like to get unwanted material that is objectionable to them.

    A friend of mine was recently telling me that an ex-classmate of hers looked up her email address and after exchanging a few emails began sending all sorts of religious stuff to her.

    She wrote to him, politely, several times asking him to stop and he did not. She started sending him unsolicited and objectionable material ( for his values ) to him. “Childfree By Choice” links.

    He sent her some very angry responses. My friend stayed polite and got to the point in the conversation where she told him that since he kept sending her religious material after she asked him to stop she took that as meaning that it was “okay” for her to send whatever she wanted to him despite him asking her to stop.

    He stopped.

  6. Pondering Willow;

    Every email service, especially the web based ones have abuse links.

    Send one email to each spammer asking them to stop. CC yourself. Make sure all the email headers are showing. Then send a copy of that email if they don’t stop along with the last email they sent to the abuse links. The free email provider almost always delete their accounts. It will teach them a lesson.

    I know in my yahoo account I can block address outright.

  7. @Beforewisdom re:abuse links: Wow, I didn’t know they did that!!!! (evil smile 🙂 )

    @Ann-Marie I get your point, but these “kids” are not kids, they’re college students–18-25 year old adults… (Yes, sad I know.)

    When you speak to adults (even young adults) like kids, they get angry. How do I make the message more grown-up without sounding condescending?


  8. If they are adults they already know they are taking a risk of stepping out of line and they know to give people slack with how they sound in their emails. You also wrote that these students are ex-students so your relationship with them is over.

    Just be brief and honest( or at least brief and polite):

    Hi Bob;
    It is a cliche these days about everyone being very busy and not having time to deal with every piece of email they get. I set this particular email address up so I can focus more on my students with my limited time. Please do not send any messages to this address that do not pertain to class. Please do not send any material related to religion either. It is not an appropriate subject for this address.

    If they are offended at a message like that it is their own fault.

    Remember they are adults, they are the ones stepping out of line.

    Save a copy of that email ( CC yourself ) with the full headers.

    If they keep sending forward your copy to the abuse link for their email provider. They will not tell the person who said what about them. They will likely just delete their account.

  9. PonderingWillow: I was an adjunct professor at a Community college for four years and I admit to having two or three students who did the same thing. Just remember, they are new to the real world and their mentality isn’t as sharp for some, as we might like to think it is or should be. If 25 year old students are exhibiting the same behavior as 15 year olds, then their perception of that behavior isn’t all that different.

    Here are some ideas:
    You can try questioning a student’s knowledge about the subject of their email, in a sincere way of course. Discussion will ultimately lead to the erroneousness of the email. This approach will not sound accusatory and usually works. Remember to speak with them and not at them.

    Another idea would be to simply tell the student that you used to send those kinds of emails until you figured out how bogus they all were. This will open discussion and allow you to tell them why.

    If all else fails, a great way to inform the class as a whole, without singling anyone out is to hold a class on the subject of email forwarding. You can even have the students bring in some emails they find questionable, or “cool.” I guarantee your box will be less full soon after.

    As for ex students, you can send them a copy of your notes from the class and ask for their responses. Most likely they will either opt not to reply but simply sto sending you those types of emails or they will send you a little message saying the class was cool and ask why you didnt do that when they were there.

    Hope this helps.

  10. beforewisdom: Although many educators feel the way that you do about a teacher’s role being over once the class is done, I disagree. I have maintained contact with many of my students from even my very first days as a teacher several years ago. I think it is important to be a driving force in someone’s life, especially when you have made a great initial impact on them.

    For instance, with all you have enlightened me on when it comes to veganism, I would find it quite difficult to loose contact with you.

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