The crucial email BCC etiquette rules to properly use the blind carbon copy (BCC). When BCC is appropriate and how to use it correctly.

What email BCC etiquette is

Email BCC etiquette is the set of rules to properly use the Bcc in your emails. Such rules help us use the BCC functionality in the appropriate way and avoid improper use. They include:

  • When to use BCC.
  • How to use BCC properly.
  • The mistakes to avoid.

Everyone should know email BCC etiquette to avoid improper use of this functionality and to use it when it is needed or even legally recommended.

Etiquette rules to use BCC in email

Email BCC etiquette rules

1) Use BCC only when appropriate

BCC is appropriate only for a few use cases. In general, BCC is for a recipient that needs to receive a message, but not be part of the subsequent discussion or thread. The other appropriate use is to send an email to multiple recipients, but protect their privacy by hiding their email address.

Any other use of the BCC risks being inappropriate. For example, avoid using BCC to enable someone to “stalk” an email thread without the other recipients knowing.

2) How to use BCC in introductions over email

An email introduction is when someone introduces two or more people over email. When you reply to an email introduction, it is most appropriate to put the sender in BCC, unless the person needs to stay in the email thread.

In such cases, BCC is needed because the sender (who made the introduction) needs to see that the introduction was successful. However, if the sender has no interest in the subsequent conversation, it is best to save their inbox from unnecessary emails.

In your reply, state as the first sentence that you are moving the sender to BCC. For example: “Moving [name] to BCC to save their inbox – thanks for the introduction!”

3) How to use BCC to remove someone from an email thread

Sometimes, an email thread can evolve and some people are no longer needed in the conversation. In such cases, it is appropriate and polite to remove them from the discussion by moving them to BCC.

Before moving someone to BCC, it is polite to agree with the person. A quick text message is enough. For example, you can simply ask “Do you still need to be in that email thread?”.

When you move someone to BCC, always state it in the first line of the email. This way, you let all the other recipients know that someone is leaving the conversation.

4) Use BCC to prevent reply-all emails

It is best to use BCC whenever we need to limit or prevent a large volume of “reply all” emails. BCC is perfect when we need to share information with a wide audience, but we do not intend to start a conversation or email thread with all the recipients. For example, company-wide announcements should be on BCC.

5) Use BCC to protect the recipients’ privacy

Similarly, BCC is most appropriate when we send an email to a group of recipients, but we need to protect the recipients’ privacy. For example, when we send the same email to a group of business partners.

In such cases, exposing the recipients’ email addresses is unprofessional and can even constitute a violation of the recipients’ privacy.

6) Avoid stealth BCC

Avoid using BCC to enable someone to stalk an email conversation without the other recipients knowing it. Doing otherwise is a severe breach of trust.

email BCC etiquette mistakes

Email BCC etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst email BCC etiquette mistakes: 

  • 9/10. Using BCC without the other recipients knowing.
  • 9/10. Failing to use BCC to protect the recipients’ privacy.
  • 7/10. Moving someone to BCC without agreeing on it before.
  • 7/10. Failing to use BCC to prevent reply-all emails.