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Emailing a Group: What Not to Do

Yesterday I received two email messages sent to large adhoc groups of people. One was from an individual in a medical center, letting her professional contacts know about a job opening. Another was from a parent who wanted to know whether anyone had videotaped a concert in which his child had performed. His camera had failed him, and he hoped to hear that rousing “Pirates of the Caribbean” medley again.

Both people broke a rule of email etiquette: they exposed all their contacts’ email addresses. They put recipients’ addresses in the CC (courtesy copy) line rather than the BCC (Blind courtesy copy) line.

So now, if I wanted to use email to solicit business at Microsoft, AAA, Pemco, Boeing, Codesic, Medtronic, Corbis, and dozens of other companies, I would have email addresses to use.

Both writers should have followed my Email Tip Number 82: Use BCCs to keep addresses confidential.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.