2 Rules for Formal Emailing

If you’re sending out anything from business e-mails to bulk mailings to a community group you’re part of, there are a couple of things you should be aware of.

I write this based on two mistakes I encountered in an e-mail from a local “group” I’m part of. I say “group” because it’s actually technically a business, which makes things a little worse, but in “rural Wales” things can be a little relaxed, not that that’s an excuse… it’s the law and all.

#1 Use the BCC box

When you pile everyone’s e-mail address into the “To” box, you reveal the name (as you have it in your address book) and E-mail address of each recipient to everyone else.

You might think this is no big deal if you think everyone in the list is friendly to everyone, but there are a few points to consider:

a) maybe not everyone wants everyone else to have their e-mail address

b) if any one person has their e-mail account “hacked” then that e-mail you just sent is an easy way of building a junk mail list

c) you’ve actually just breached the Data Protection Act which states you are responsible for keeping the data of those individuals secure and should not share it without permission

“BCC” stands for “Blank Carbon Copy”, and by using that box instead of the “To” box as you would normally when sending out an individual email means that it keeps all the recipients hidden from everyone else.


Whenever anyone sends a bulk mailing to me and they’ve used the “To” box instead, the voice in my head says “Thank you for telling everyone else my e-mail address.” On this occasion I politely requested they use the BCC box in future; I just hope I haven’t ruffled any feathers.

#2 Give the option to Unsubscribe

You know those junk e-mails you still receive from companies you once bought something from? UK law (and others, I assume) states that they must include an option to Unsubscribe. Now, if you operate your own little business venture, how are you any different? You’re not.

Whenever you send a bulk-mailing or newsletter, you should include the option to Unsubscribe; this doesn’t have to be anything fancy like clicking on a link that does it automatically (you might not have your mailing list set up like that), you can just include the instruction in small print at the end “To unsubscribe, reply with Unsubscribed in the Subject line.

I actually had some “hot shot” online security/legal firm e-mail send me an unsolicited e-mail without including an unsubscribe option and I replied with “Unsubscribe” in the subject line and included a little comment in the e-mail itself about their “operating practice” and a link to the a page on government-issued guidelines. Surprising enough I got a apology!

If you frequently/persistently receive e-mails from a particular sender as part of a mailing list and there’s no Unsubscribe method mentioned at the beginning or end of the email, you can always reply to it with “Unsubscribe” in the Subject line, and hope it gets the job done if there’s a person at the other to read it. I would advise replying to general/random junk mail with caution because in doing so you confirm your e-mail address is in use and may cause you to receive more junk mail.

You can read more here:






  1. Another point is that when a business puts everyone’s address in the To or Copy fields it gives everyone a list of its customers, which might be invaluable to competitors.

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