From BCC to Spam: The Basics of Email Etiquette

CC or BCC?

CC stands for Carbon Copy.  You use this to send the same email to multiple people.  However, everyone you send it to will see everyone else's email address. This is bad etiquette for over 3 or 4 folks who already know each other.

BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy.  You use this to send the same email to multiple people. However, this way each won't see the email addresses of the others nor will they know how many people you sent it to.

The only reason to use CC instead of BCC is when you want people to know who you're sending an email to.  So always use BCC instead of CC unless you have a reason not to!

Some email programs require at least one recipient. So, send it to yourself and BCC everyone else.

Quoting vs. copying all

When I send you an email and you want to reply to it, you usually hit the reply key in your email program. Your email browser usually keeps a copy of my email and changes the subject line to the memo-appropriate "RE: my subject line." This is really handy... until it's the 6th reply in the string and the email has gone on for days. It's helpful to abbreviate the mail you're responding to with only the latest email in the string, or just a part of that mail in quotes.

If you only receive a few emails a week and someone replies to you, it probably isn't a problem for you to figure out what they said yes to if they didn't quote your original email.

But a lot of people send and receive a large amount of email each week.  I for instance receive about 200 emails per day. I reply to most of them. When someone replies back I usually can't remember what they're talking about without reading what I wrote to them. If they don't have quoting turned on I have no choice but to do a search to find the last email I sent...what a pain!

Some people will only quote a small part of an email, while others (myself included) prefer to quote the whole message.  There is no real rule of thumb here, so just use your best judgement.

In Outlook, go to tools > options > send tab and check the box that says "include message in reply".

You also can change from HTML to plain text here as well.

What about the subject line?

Try and make your subject lines make sense and be as specific as possible. Keep in mind that I already know who you are and when you sent the message, so "Friday afternoon from grandma" isn't an illuminating subject line. However, "Ginger Snap Recipe" is a perfect subject line!

HTML vs. Plain Text

In the beginning, all email was in plain text. Now, HTML or Rich Text are standard for everyone recieving email on a computer. Some people love HTML and some people hate receiving email as HTML documents. As you get emails from people, notice how they send them.  If they send to you in plain text, you should reply the same way. Outlook does this by default.


I hate SPAM...so does most everyone I know.  Most people think of those emails they get that talk about free college degrees, how to earn $$$, and stuff like that as SPAM.  Did you ever think that email you send might be considered as SPAM by the person who gets it?

Often, a dozen people send me the same LSU joke. Before you forward a poignant or funny email that claims to be true, check it out at snopes.com. Think about what you're sending and make sure the person you're sending it to will want to get it.


What about sending attachments?  The first rule of thumb is to never send anyone an attachment without their knowledge and consent. When you do send an attachment please take the time to explain what it is and why you're sending it.

Sending someone a large (over 1MB) attachment without approval is considered by some to be an offense -- worse yet, your whole mail could be blocked by their server. Remember, it's not your opinion that counts...it's the person you're sending the attachment to whose opinion that counts.

And that's the goal of most etiquette rules -- to make sure you don't accidentally transgress.

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